Physicians: Bill to allow telemedicine bad for Mississippi

Published 11:32 pm Friday, February 26, 2016

State doctors are not pleased with legislation recently passed in the House.

The Mississippi State Medical Association, headed by Dr. Dan Edney of Vicksburg, with more than 60 state physicians and medical students warned the public and state senators Thursday about the dangers of certain telemedicine.

“Bad telemedicine is like your physician wearing a blindfold,” Edney said.

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House Bill 1178 allows Mississippians to be treated by out of state physicians over the telephone. Edney along with other physicians said that is bad telemedicine because the doctor cannot possibly have all the information they need through a telephone conversation plus no one is held accountable.

“It lets out-of-state companies off the hook. They are not responsible for their patients’ outcomes or follow-up care,” Dr. Sam Crosby of Hattiesburg said.

Crosby, president of the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians, said two years ago the House stated audio-only telemedicine was not adequate for insurance coverage.

“That was a step forward in the right direction. Now the Mississippi House has turned an about-face and decided that audio-only telemedicine is OK,” Crosby said.

“A picture is worth a thousand words, and telemedicine without the visual component is bad medicine.”

These physicians consider House Bill 1178 bad telemedicine, but Edney said there is such thing as good telemedicine. The University of Mississippi Medical Center uses telemedicine and leads the nation in advancing the practice of telemedicine, he said. The hospital is able to use audio and video to treat patients.

“Good telemedicine means audio and real-time video. Exactly like UMMC – the nationally recognized leader in the right kind of telemedicine,” Edney said.

In addition to bad medicine, Edney said the bill is also bad business because it takes away from the business of local physicians who create jobs and support the local economy.

The bill was introduced by Republican Representative Sam Mims, Chairman of the House Public Health Committee, and was passed by the House on Feb. 22. The Senate will have a chance to revise the bill before they vote next week. Edney hopes the auto-only part of the wording would be removed from the bill.