Sunday, May 13, 2012

ATA Issues Call for Action

The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) has sent out a Call for Action to individuals involved in the use of telemedicine to help them understand how pending legislation may affect the telemedicine field.

ATA has long supported the idea of protecting consumers from illicit online pharmacies selling medications without adequate oversight by a qualified health professional. However details in a fast moving proposal presently in congress sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Representative Bill Cassidy (R-LA) may adversely affect the use of telemedicine when used to prescribe medicine to patients. The original language was in the proposed “Online Pharmacy Safety Act” but has been redrafted as an amendment included in a larger bill now in progress dealing with FDA.

Details in this quickly evolving bill have some alarming implications for providers of telemedicine. ATA is concerned that the language in the latest version may prohibit legitimate providers from using telemedicine to diagnose and treat patients.

The latest version of the legislation would create a federal definition of a “valid prescription” which would cover all prescriptions not just controlled substances and apply to all pharmacies. In part, in order to obtain a valid prescription, it would require that the patient have an in-person medical evaluation within the previous 24 months.

Regarding telehealth, the language requires the valid prescription to either meet a Controlled Substances Act definition requiring the patient to be at a hospital or clinic, or it can be issued by a newly defined “qualified offsite telehealth practitioner” and be based on instantaneous communication with the patient. Completion of a questionnaire and/or a phone call would not be a sufficient basis for a prescription to be made available to a patient.

This possible legislation is very important to address now as the bill may go to a final vote within two weeks. Go to to read the current language of the proposed amendment.

ATA is requesting that if you are interested in commenting on the provisions contained in this bill and potential adverse consequences on the practice of telemedicine, please contact your Senators and Representatives. For a list of Senators and Representatives, go to

For additional information, contact Gary Capistrant at gcapistrant@americantelemed.or or call 202-223-3333.