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Medical professional liability insurers are monitoring prescribing protocols in telemedicine operations, an issue of particular concern in the context of the opioids epidemic.
For example, insurers watch for compliance with regulations governing prescribing, including whether the health care provider needs to be in the same room to prescribe certain medications, said Njoki Wamiti, Boston-based vice president with IronHealth, a unit of Ironshore Insurance Services LLC.
“They’re not going to prescribe opioids if you haven’t come into their office,” she said.
But many experts believe telemedicine can make a major difference in addressing the opioids crisis.
“You can get an opioid from just about any licensed provider, but there are nowhere near as many providers who can treat you for opioids dependency,” said Susan Boisvert, senior risk specialist at Boston-based medical professional liability insurer Coverys.
Talk therapy or the use of controlled substances such as methadone are used in medication-assisted treatments, so telemedicine is not a first-visit option; but it could be utilized for followup visits, particularly for a patient population that often has trouble remaining compliant with treatment protocols, she said.
“But a telemedicine visit you can do in your house is just much better, and it’s potentially a great alternative for a huge health care problem in the United States,” Ms. Boisvert said.
In terms of helping to address the opioid crisis, “I truly believe this is where telemedicine will have the biggest impact,” said Tracy Hassett, president and CEO of university group captive edHealth in Providence, Rhode Island.
Health care providers treating patients remotely need to be aware of the potential cyber risks embedded in telemedicine models and the liability that could be created for them when sharing and receiving personal health information, experts say.