Effective February 3, 2022, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (BoRM), which oversees physician licensure and the practice of medicine, updated its “Policy on Telemedicine in the Commonwealth” (Policy) to provide more guidance for licensed physicians on utilization of telemedicine in practice. BoRM initially issued this Policy in 2020 in connection with the onset of COVID-19 and the significant corresponding expansion of telemedicine and other telehealth care delivery models for patients and providers.
BoRM now has expanded the Policy to provide specific guidance on when a physician providing care via telemedicine is practicing in Massachusetts, and thus, subject to licensure and regulation by BoRM: the Policy states that BoRM “deems a physician to be practicing medicine in Massachusetts when the patient is physically located in Massachusetts.” The Policy continues to indicate that, so long as the particular physician’s license does not restrict the physician’s location, a Massachusetts-licensed physician need not be in a particular location (in-state or out-of-state) to engage in the practice of medicine for patients in Massachusetts. The Policy further specifies that references to “telemedicine” include remote delivery models encompassed within the statutory definition of “telehealth” under Massachusetts law, which would also include interactive audio-video, remote patient monitoring, audio-only telephone calls, and online adaptive interviews.
The Policy also states that the “practice of medicine shall not require a face-to-face encounter between the physician and the patient prior to health care delivery via telemedicine,” but that the standard of care for telemedicine services remains the same as for in-person health care services.
BoRM’s update of this Policy appears to be beneficial for a provider community that has integrated telehealth into its care delivery models as the COVID-19 public health emergency has continued, and provides support for further offering of telehealth services by physicians in order to maintain access to care for patients in Massachusetts. The Policy also can serve as a reminder for physicians not licensed in Massachusetts that the provision of care via telemedicine to a patient in Massachusetts may be construed as the practice of medicine in Massachusetts and therefore subject to licensure.