Last month, the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) published guidelines for telemedicine visits, or more specifically, “live, on-demand primary care and urgent care” visits. The ATA’s guidelines serve to encourage patient safety, uniformity, and quality of telemedicine services. They were created by a group of experts in the healthcare sector who assessed more than 600 studies related to telemedicine practice. The guidelines cover everything from cultural competence to coding and documentation, and, while they are not steadfast regulations, they serve as an excellent tool for implementing best practices. Even though there are many conditions that can be treated successfully with telemedicine, the ATA also explained several scenarios that should be considered “red flags” with regards to seeking treatment online. These include patients with the following:
+ Severe cognitive disorders
+ Language barriers
+ Emergencies that warrant an ER visit
+ Inability to connect virtually
The ATA also notes that their guidelines should help providers conduct a safe and successful telemedicine visit. One of the most important factors in avoiding adverse outcomes is thorough documentation; the provider is always encouraged to give as much detail as possible in their chart regarding their treatment decision. Overall, these guidelines are an important step forward in creating a uniform set of telemedicine policies and regulations across the country.