In the world of telehealth, getting informed consent becomes even more crucial compared to regular in-person visits. As COVID-19 has led to a shift in routine medical consultations to online platforms, healthcare professionals need to rethink their approach to informed consent, including for existing patients.
While initial consent might have been given during in-person visits, the move to telemedicine requires a fresh perspective. Since practitioners can’t physically examine patients or take vital signs online, they must explain the inherent limitations of telehealth to their patients.
Educating patients about the differences between telemedicine and in-person visits is vital. What seems obvious to practitioners might not be clear to patients. This is an opportunity for practitioners to explain the unique aspects of telehealth consultations.
Sustaining High Standards in Telemedicine Care
Practitioners must uphold the same level of care in telemedicine as they do in traditional visits. Regardless of the remote setting, the law mandates providing patients with a consistent and high level of care. If a telehealth visit cannot adequately address a patient’s symptoms or might pose harm without an in-person examination, practitioners should consider referring the patient for in-person care.
Collaborative Communication with Primary Care Providers
Sharing visit results with a patient’s primary care provider is crucial in telehealth. Practitioners must decide whether to take on this responsibility or stress the importance of patients doing it themselves. Any communication with other healthcare providers requires obtaining the necessary HIPAA releases. Patients should be informed about the risks of not sharing information between providers and how it could impact their overall care.
Concluding Telehealth Visits Effectively
Telehealth visits often end with prescriptions, recommendations for in-person care or testing, or suggestions for follow-up telehealth sessions. Practitioners must ensure that patients understand the role of the telehealth appointment in their overall health plan and clear communication about the likelihood of needing in-person care, especially in urgent cases, is crucial.
Additional Considerations for Informed Consent in Telehealth
Informed consent goes beyond a mere form; it’s a conversation, especially in telehealth. Key points to include in discussions with patients are:
- Consent for the use of technologies affecting the privacy of medical information.
- Guidance on obtaining copies of medical records and understanding records retention policies.
- Explanation of legal and ethical limitations of care via telehealth.
- Requirement for patients and other providers to use appropriate technology for telemedicine visits.
Addressing Legal and Compliance Challenges in Telehealth Transition
Transitioning to telemedicine introduces complexities related to legal and compliance obligations. Practitioners must adhere to state laws, practice acts, and various regulations, even in cash-based care. Consulting with an experienced healthcare attorney can provide invaluable guidance on compliance, ensuring adherence to relevant laws, and developing tailored forms for telemedicine practices.