With the widespread availability and use of the internet in today’s society, the internet has begun to facilitate the use of the internet by physicians to communicate with patients, including the use of the internet for online medical consultations (aka, Cybermedicine). However, many doctors are consulting with patients that they have no established relationship with and have never examined. These doctors are diagnosing ailments, providing a treatment plan, and in some situations, prescribing medication. Diagnosing and treating a patient that you have never examined can be very dangerous, and can place the doctor in a significant potential for malpractice liability. At this point it is even uncertain whether malpractice insurance will even cover the physician practicing medicine in this way.
Because regulation of the practice of medicine is largely governed by states, there is no uniform law regarding the legality of Cybermedicine. In Hawaii, patients can visit with a physician that they never met before via the internet, the physician can diagnose the patient's illness and provide the patient with a prescription. In other states, like Texas, this practice is only allowed if the patient and the physician have an established physician-patient relationship. Some states do not have any laws covering Cybermedicine.
Reimbursement of Cybermedicine services is also a complicated issue. So far Medicare and Medicaid do not reimburse for Cybermedicine services. In addition, only a few private insurers offer reimbursement. For those patients and physicians with established relationships, Cybermedicine may be a cost effective method of lowering medical costs. However, if physicians will not be reimbursed for providing these services, they have no incentive to participate.
Overall, online medical consultations may be an efficient, cost-effective way of enhancing an established physician-patient relationship and for certain medical conditions.
To read more on this subject, take a look at this article: Cybermedicine: What You Need to Know, http://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/publishing/health_lawyer/health_mo_premium_hl_healthlawyer_v23_2306.authcheckdam.pdf