A few months ago I mentioned a case involving a Colorado physician who prescribed medication over the Internet (see: Telemedicine and the Law) to a patient who later committed suicide.
That physican has now been sentenced to nine months in jail. The story reports this case is "is one of the first criminal prosecutions of a practitioner of "telemedicine," the furnishing of medical advice by phone or the Internet, for failing to have a license in the patient's state."
The physician's attorney remarked that "telemedicine is now dead" and goes on to say "no doctor in his or her right mind would now pursue telemedicine unless licensed in all 50 states."
I couldn't disagree more. The case seems to stem from the fact that the physician did not have a license in any state to write prescriptions, let alone to someone who clearly needed help and received the prescription after completing a questionnaire alone without an examination or direct contact. The drugs were "ordered" by the patient through a website who relayed the order through a supplier to the physician convicted in this case.
As I wrote in my previous note, "While we do not know all the facts of the above case, simply diagnosing and treating, or in our case, diagnosing and affecting potential treatment or management seems a stretch without knowing more than allegedly this physician did before prescribing treatment. Whichever way this case goes, I presume we are going to see more like it but can help ourselves if we practice telemedicine much like we practice medicine."
I think this case speaks to the need for appropriate regulation, licensure and controls in place to ensure a patient-physician relationship so that practice of telemedicine is analagous to the practice of medicine.