Telemedicine Contract Review: A Critical Component to Fully Realizing your Practice’s Telemedicine Program
As our lives become increasingly dependent on our technology, a whole new area of patient care is blossoming. Telemedicine provides a new avenue to access care for patients who are remote or simply seeking a stress-free second opinion.
Simply put, if a physician practice isn’t considering adding a telemedicine service line, then the practice should put the question on the table. It provides an additional source of practice revenue and the opportunity to provide medical care and treatment in remote and underserved areas.
But for physicians who wish to implement telemedicine services in their practices, new contractual obligations arise. What kinds of technology are required to competently and compliantly provide quality care? What makes a telemedicine contract or agreement different from a normal professional services agreement? And who is qualified to provide a telemedicine contract review?
- Telemedicine Technology Agreements.
The right telemedicine technology is essential to a thriving telemedicine practice. Putting the technology into your practice will likely mean entering a contract with a third party supplier. There are various telemedicine technology businesses in the market, each with its own reputation and commitment to quality. Each physician practice should allocate some serious man hours up front in choosing one that the physicians are comfortable with.
Healthcare attorneys (and especially those with an intellectual property subpractice) love telemedicine contract review and analyzing these types of agreements. They are often lopsided in favor of the technology business, really letting the physician’s attorney sink his chops into the verbiage (even though they’re printed in ink smaller than any human eyes can comfortably read) in attempting to advise and protect his client. However, it is crucially important that physicians and practices arrange for these agreements to be closely vetted for potential pitfalls. Whether these agreements are framed as licensing agreements or consulting agreements, the provider of health care must know his/her legal obligations with regard to licensure, documentation, patient privacy and numerous other considerations. Without an attorney conducting a thorough telemedicine contract review, a provider could risk his/her license without even being aware that what they are doing is questionable.
- Professional Telemedicine Provider Agreements.
Telemedicine physicians may have the opportunity to work as independent contractors on behalf of telemedicine companies. These types of arrangements often differ from a typical professional services agreement in areas of compensation, use of technology, schedule of services, indemnification and venue for legal action. These agreements are negotiable and should also be thoroughly analyzed by qualified counsel. Many times, even if the healthcare professional has the truest intentions of operating compliantly, the telemedicine companies with which they work might be operating out of compliance, thus putting licenses and federal participation at risk.
Healthcare attorneys are qualified to give physicians input on these types of agreements, including proper provision of telemedicine services, documentation, and billing and collections. As telemedicine’s popularity gains and is adopted among payors across the medical service spectrum, additional regulations are likely. Reaching out in regular increments to ensure continued compliance is also a good idea.
A small investment with qualified counsel at the start of a telemedicine relationship may well be all that is needed to keep your practice clear of risk. When telemedicine contracts are carefully considered and telemedicine is ultimately thoughtfully implemented in a medical practice, it can be a critical component to evolving successfully.