The American Medical Association has finally come out in favor of telemedicine—but in a way that could stifle its promise. As we’ve noted before, doctors could perform basic checkups and primary care via Skype or Google hangout as effectively as during an in-person visit. This can save patients time and money, cut down on emissions (no driving to the doctor’s office!), and even save lives. But though the AMA has come around to these benefits, its new recommendations on telemedicine leave much to be desired. The WaPo:
The group recommended, for instance, that physicians be licensed in the state their patient is in, and that patient-physician relationships should be established before the provision of telemedicine services (such as through a face-to-face examination or consultation with another physician).The AMA also recommended that physicians and other health practitioners should abide by the state medical practice laws of the state the patient receives services.
Requiring doctors to get a license in every state in which they treat patients is an example of our backward-looking approach to regulating health care innovation. It will limit choice for patients while imposing new burdens on providers. And if a doctor licensed by the state of New Jersey isn’t qualified to provide very basic primary care to an American in Pennsylvania, we have bigger problems on our hands. Technology will allow us to build a new health care system. Instead of importing outdated regulatory regimes, we should prioritize choice, flexibility, and mobility as we do so.