Practicing Telemedicine in Massachusetts? Are You Licensed?

For those physicians seeking to treat Massachusetts-based patients through the use of telemedicine, even if they are located out of state themselves, a Massachusetts medical license appears to be an absolute necessity.  As first reported by the Boston Herald, a representative from the Massachusetts Medical Society recently told members of the state’s Division of Insurance that providers making diagnoses of Massachusetts patients through telemedicine should be required to be fully licensed there.  “When you’re talking about diagnosis, that’s a really critical area,” said Bill Ryder, the Massachusetts Medical Society legislative and regulatory counsel.  “Anybody who does that should have a full license in Massachusetts.”

Another reason to ensure that telemedicine providers obtain full Massachusetts licenses, per Ryder, is to allow the state medical board jurisdiction over anyone treating Massachusetts patients, regardless of the physician’s location.  “Requiring doctors who practice telemedicine here to have [licenses] would preserve the board’s ability to act in cases involving complaints of misconduct or error,” he explained to the Division of Insurance.

The use of telemedicine has arguably been less widespread in Massachusetts than in other states; the state Medicaid program, for example, does not provide reimbursement for telehealth services, and private insurers are not required by law to provide coverage, though some do.  Some of the state’s most prominent hospitals—including the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts General Hospital—also have telemedicine programs.  Last year state legislators did pass a law that defined telemedicine, but, per the Herald, “left it to the Division of Insurance and the Board of Registration in Medicine to submit a report with recommendations for legislation to permit the use of out-of-state physicians for telemedicine.”  Those two groups are currently working to do just that, partially through the input of stakeholders.

Click here for the article from the Boston Herald on medical licensure and telemedicine.




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