Categories: Health Law,

The conveniences of the modern age of technology may soon be spreading to the medical field in a new way, Miami health care lawyers say. In the Florida House of Representatives, legislators are debating the pros and cons of telemedicine—the new trend in an increasingly busy, technology-based country. Doctors and medical professionals are weighing in on the discussion as well, as Florida works to find a medical program that will benefit all members of the state.

The telemedicine debate argues that in rural areas of Florida, where doctors' offices are few and far between, residents who need medical attention could access their primary care physicians via Skype or other video-feed web programs. Thus, telemedicine would eliminate the need for those in remote areas to travel to an on-site appointment for consultations or diagnoses. Doctors could also issue prescriptions for medication based on a Skype appointment, and forward the information to the patient's pharmacy.

A host of medical information is already available on the Internet, from WebMD to Diagnose-Me.com. Many doctors see telemedicine as an additional way to combine the convenience of the Internet with the practice of medicine. Doctors who practice in rural areas are especially receptive to the idea, because their facilities tend to have less funding than those in more populated, urban areas. Dr. Cary Pigman, a Republican representative from Avon Park and a rural emergency room doctor, pointed out, "If the option is no physician, I'll take one on a television camera any day of the week."

Miami health attorneys say that while Pigman's rationale highlights an important factor in the debate about telemedicine—the availability of doctors in a given area—it also downplays the possible negative impact that Skype appointments could have. Several state representatives who oppose the legislation are quick to note the downsides.  Senator Joe Negron, head of the Select Committee on Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, notes that substituting Skype for an in-person doctor's appointment may be "marginalizing the art of medicine."

Other arguments against telemedicine focus on the billing and insurance aspect of the medical practice. In a previous bill, lawmakers balked at language that required insurance companies and HMOs to pay for telemedicine. Even more recently, Florida representatives have been debating how best to fund the initial set-up for a telemedicine system, and how to bill for an online appointment. Additionally, online privacy is a noted concern, as patients would be electronically sharing sensitive health information as well as Social Security numbers, addresses, and other personal information. But doctors who support the cause of online physician services point out that paying for the service would be no different from online shopping. Patients already trust their information to an online system at the doctor's office, and that material is protected through secure websites. If the practice is approved in the House of Representatives, then telemedicine may provide a new way to bring a doctor to every Florida resident in need of medical care.

The experienced Miami health care lawyers at Lubell Rosen provide legal solutions for doctors and healthcare professionals.  Contact us today for advice and legal counsel.