Telemedicine continues to gain attention and acceptance by patients and healthcare professionals. In early 2016 we wrote about growing medical community interest in telemedicine. In mid-2016 the American Medical Association provided guidance for telemedicine. As the year comes to a close, the focus on telemedicine has grown even wide-reaching.

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) issued its annual report based on the most important regulatory topics for 2016 of its 57 separate member organizations. Of all the issues, telemedicine topped the list. The boards were asked to choose the five most important topics from a list of 15 choices; three out of four chose telemedicine. The next four most important regulatory topics were resources related to opioid prescribing, the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC), physician reentry into practice, and medical marijuana.

The federation doesn’t just take surveys. For each of the five top regulatory topics for 2016, the FSMB issued model policies, guidelines, or legislation. For telemedicine, the federation issued its “Model Policy for the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine.” Most of the policy is concerned with professional practices, record keeping and confidentiality, and patient disclosure and informed consent. This issue is particularly important because physicians currently face a web of state and federal requirements and restrictions about the practice of telemedicine, and a lot of work needs to be done in order to remove barriers and provide incentives for broader use of telemedicine technology without risking a lower standard of care for patients.