In the fall of 2015 the Medical Examining Board (MEB) submitted an order to create Med Chapter 24 related to telemedicine. According to the scope statement, the objective of the proposed rule is to provide greater clarity for physicians with regards to the practice of telemedicine in Wisconsin. Currently, there is no reference to the practice of telemedicine in administrative code. The rule intends to, amongst other things, define telemedicine and explain how a valid physician-patient relationship can be established in a telemedicine setting.
The 10 page rule, as originally drafted, received a public hearing on January 20, 2016. Just over 10 groups testified or submitted testimony at the hearing and ultimately, the majority of the concerns were related to the same issue. Many groups commented that the drafted rule would have unnecessary duplication of administrative code that already exists for medical care. However, groups shared positive commentary regarding the section of the rule that allowed for a physician-patient relationship to be established via telemedicine.
After receiving this mixed feedback, the MEB, at their next meeting in February, decided to create a telemedicine subcommittee. The subcommittee’s task was to review the draft rule and address the concerns shared in hearing testimony and to retain components that were viewed as favorable.
The subcommittee discussed the new direction of the rule and gathered feedback from interested parties over the course of three subcommittee meetings in March, May and July. During this time, the members on the subcommittee identified a less complex rule adopted by Florida and used it as a guide towards their new draft.
At the July meeting, the subcommittee decided on a significantly shorter rule that contains seven straightforward sections: (1) the agency’s authority and scope for rulemaking, (2) the definition of telemedicine, (3) stating that a physician-patient relationship may be established through telemedicine, (4) requiring a Wisconsin medical license (5) one general statement regarding the standards of practice and conduct, (6) clarifying what is acceptable equipment and technology, and (7) provisions for internet diagnosis and treatment.
The telemedicine subcommittee will approve this new draft with some simple changes in September. The new draft will then have a public hearing later this fall. It is expected, because of the open dialogue the subcommittee had with interested parties, the new version will be approved by the full board and forwarded to the governor and legislature for final approval in early 2017.