If you are working online with telehealth, you’re probably one of thousands of medical providers doing the same. There is one thing that you should be cautious of, which is prescribing medications without what would be considered an acceptable examination.
There has always been a concern about the legitimacy of prescribing medications over the internet. Even with add-on options, like forms for patients to fill out to come up with a treatment plan or diagnosis, there is no way to guarantee that a patient is being honest. That’s why it is important to see the patient and to have a two-way conversation.
What do California’s laws say about prescribing medications online?
California’s laws state that it is not legal to prescribe any kind of medication without an appropriate examination. That examination may be digital, such as in the case of a telehealth conference, but it does have to take place. In-person examinations are the preferred method of examination, but in some cases, telehealth does allow for prescribing to take place without one. For example, a provider might allow a refill for a patient with a prior relationship with their office, even if the call is through telehealth.
In other cases, prescribers should still be cautious. If the medication they’re going to prescribe is controlled, then they may ask a telehealth patient to come to a clinic to give blood or a sample for testing. That way, they can make an accurate diagnosis even if they don’t see the patient in person other than through a video call.
In 2020 and 2021, there were, and continue to be, some “temporary flexibilities” that apply to telehealth. The Medi-Cal telehealth policy gives providers the flexibility to use telehealth in place of an in-office visit when delivering necessary care to their patients. Telehealth, by the policy’s definition, is audio-visual, two-way real-time communication.
Concerns about prescribing through telehealth? You aren’t alone
If you have concerns about offering telehealth services or are questioned about prescribing while using telehealth, it’s a good idea to speak with someone familiar with the recent changes in telehealth laws. Your attorney can help you better understand what you can or cannot do through this service.