Above All, Do No Digital Harm

Telemedicine, whereby physicians use email, phone, text, or video for prescribing and consultations, is growing rapidly. Seeking to encourage faster uptake of telemedicine, many well-intentioned parties are prodding Congress to take actions which will likely have harmful unintended consequences.

So far, Congress has done well. With respect to regulating actual devices, the 21st Century Cures Act, passed by the House in 2015 with overwhelming bipartisan support, is forward thinking. If passed into law, the policies it would implement would lead to a responsible and responsive regulatory environment for mobile health apps.

However, there are other areas in which a Congressional take-over would do more harm than good, and two of the most important areas of risk are federal interference in the practice of medicine and how Medicare pays for telemedicine.

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