Although the advantages of telemedicine are many, including the ability to conduct initial consultations from a central location, its legality and parameters vary greatly from state to state.
“In our industry, technology moves much faster than the law itself, such as we have seen with microneedling and laser treatments,” says Alex Thiersch, J.D., founder and director of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa) in Chicago.
Advancements in FaceTime, Skype and video conferencing make telemedicine accessible to practices for safe, effective and efficient consults. “However, most telemedicine laws were drafted more than 10 years ago, so they do not address these newer technologies,” Thiersch tells The Aesthetic Channel.
Because the risks and side effects of most medical spa procedures are minimal to none, “I think an argument can be made that a proper assessment and treatment plan could be created by a face-to-face screen consultation,” Thiersch says. “In fact, a handful of states allow for that. There are also a handful of other states that are considering it.”
Currently, telemedicine is generally allowed for existing patients, as long as the clinician is licensed in the state in which the patient resides. But the legality of telemedicine for new patients is largely in flux.
“Therefore, dermatologists [and other aesthetic providers] need to be cautious because the rule has not necessarily been settled,” Thiersch says. “It is, though, implicitly allowed in a few states like California; and Texas allows the physician-patient relationship to be established via telemedicine.”
Still, telemedicine typically cannot be conducted by a nonlicensed healthcare professional. “At a facility, it is far better to have at least someone in the room with the patient who is some sort of licensed professional, such as a nurse, who the doctor from a remote location can rely on to help with the examination,” Thiersch explains.
Most states, however, allow a physician from another state to examine a patient, if that patient is being cared for by a doctor within his or her state of residence. In other words, “A patient can consult with that out-of-state doctor because they are under the care of an in-state doctor,” Thiersch says.