Regulatory approaches to telemedicine

What were the key findings?

Definitions of telemedicine are complex and multifaceted with some variability across countries. Some territories, for example in North America, require doctors to be licensed in the jurisdiction of the patient, while many European regulators tend to require doctors to be licensed in their own jurisdiction.

Most regulators that took part in the research emphasised that doctors must maintain the same standards of care when treating a patient through telemedicine as they would when face to face. Some also offer specific guidance around telemedicine, eg maintaining patient records and maintaining confidentiality.

Why did we commission this research?

In recent years the use of digital health services has expanded rapidly. While they may present a convenient way for some patients to access healthcare, it is important that these services do not compromise patients’ safety. This research will inform our approach to, and role in, the regulation of telemedicine in the UK.

We wanted to find out more about how UK health regulators (MHRA, GPhC and CQC) and regulators overseas (Canada, the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand or European countries) regulate doctors, healthcare providers and healthcare services, where the services are provided remotely.
We wanted to compare how this works where the services are provided within the same jurisdiction (such as within the UK) and across jurisdictions (eg when the doctor is physically based in France but the patient is in the UK).

We also wanted to understand more about how other industries regulate professionals who provide services remotely  eg financial services, engineering or surveying. Again, we wanted to find out if these apply across jurisdictions.

What did the research involve?

The research involved initial desk research, an online survey of a wide range of regulators, telephone interviews and in-depth desk research. This was focused predominantly on organisations whose function is to develop regulations or provide standards for individual practitioners, rather than those regulating healthcare providers or healthcare systems.

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Regulatory approaches to telemedicine