The Problems with Telemedicine and How Doctors Can Protect Themselves

Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerIt was in April of 2019 when the Department of Justice indicted 24 people, many of them doctors, in a healthcare fraud scheme. These indictments largely had to do with the practice of telemedicine, a practice that if not done carefully, can cost doctors their license, and possibly even their freedom. So, what is telemedicine? Why do doctors practice it, and what are the risks? Most importantly, how can doctors ensure that they practice telemedicine safely?

What Is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine allows doctors to see patients via a television, typically through a satellite connection, without actually being in the room with the patient. This can help speed along the process of healthcare, as a doctor is simply sitting in a room, typically either at their home or in their office and can see patient after patient without getting bogged down by paperwork and other administrative tasks.

Doctors that practice telemedicine typically start by responding to an ad, usually found online. The telemedicine company will interview the doctor, check their credentials, and ensure they are licensed to practice medicine. Upon approval, the telemedicine company will then offer the doctor work as a 1099 independent contractor. For each consultation, the doctor receives a fee.

Risks with Telemedicine

At first glance, telemedicine seems beneficial for patients and doctors alike. In the eyes of the DOJ though, it could be breaking federal law. The main law in question is the federal Anti-Kickback Statute. This law prohibits doctors from receiving remuneration, which is considered to be anything of value, for referrals or services that are payable by a federal program such as Medicare. When a doctor receives payment for these services, the DOJ may consider it healthcare fraud.

The other risk factor that comes with telemedicine is that generally speaking, doctors are less likely to keep the detailed documentation required when prescribing prescriptions or durable medical equipment (DME). These are two areas federal authorities have been scrutinizing lately, trying to find doctors that are ordering these drugs or equipment when the patient does not actually require them.

The problem for doctors treating patients honestly is that the doctor’s notes play a large part in determining if a service or drug is necessary. When a doctor fails to keep proper documentation simply because they are treating a patient through telemedicine and not right in their office, it can lead to a federal inquiry.

Keep Practicing Telemedicine with the Help of an Illinois Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Telemedicine is not inherently bad, and just because the DOJ is starting to crack down on it does not mean doctors have to stop practicing. They just need the help of an experienced Chicago federal criminal defense attorney.

At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel, our experienced Chicago federal criminal defense attorneys represent doctors and other clients in health care fraud investigations, and we can represent you too, even before an investigation begins. We will help you become proactive about Medicare compliance and ensure you maintain adequate documentation to protect you from any charges. Additionally, we can also help you structure financial relationships to ensure you are complying with the Anti-Kickback Statute. We want to do all of this for you and more so call us today at 312-270-0999 for your free consultation.

Source:

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/doj-indicts-24-people-in-12b-healthcare-fraud-scheme/552374/

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