Updates, Viewpoints & Practice

Politics Are For Everyone - Carol M. Stock JD, MN, RN

It’s political season here in the United States!  National presidential political debates are carried live on television, radio and the Internet.  Play by play commentaries by political correspondents, documentaries in every major newspaper, chat room and bulletin board activities on all the major web news sites exemplify the new political climate.   Pamphlets and mailers, voter guides and campaign donation requests arrive daily in my mailbox as local community elections near. So…. 

This fall I attended two important healthcare conferences.  The first, MedNet 99: The 4th Annual World Congress On the Internet in Medicine titled “Towards the Millennium of Cybermedicine,” in Heidelberg, Germany.  This meeting aimed to bring together researchers, developers and users involved in the application of the internet in medicine to explore the rapidly developing relationship between medical sciences and the internet through scientific sessions, workshops and tutorials.  The meeting provided cutting edge information, and I returned with new ideas and new friends from around the world. 

In speaking with many of the attendees, I was struck by the different legal rules and regulations that are present in various countries and how few have seemed to keep pace with the changes the use of the internet has made possible.  For example, some countries restrict access to information (for consumers) or advertising one’s services on-line.  In Germany, images of physicians or physicians with patients are not allowed on a website if it is linked to a product or hospital, as it is considered advertising and a breach of the physician/client relationship.  In other countries, restrictions are limited only by ones imagination.

 As attendees begin to network with colleagues worldwide and provide information and resources to each other via the web, they are beginning to realize different laws in different countries will and do affect their ability to relay or receive information via the world wide web.  So… 

The second conference, “Telemedicine National Conference on Legal and Policy Developments” presented by the Center for Telemedicine Law was held in Washington, DC.  This conference presented information on telemedicine reimbursement, licensure, regulatory barriers to practice, risk management and legal issues, as well as congressional and executive branch telemedicine initiatives.

A program highlight was the Congressional welcome from Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Representative Larry Combest (R-TX), Co-Chairs, Ad Hoc Steering Committee on Telehealth and a Congressional Telemedicine Initiatives Panel composed of representatives from the offices of Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Robert Bennett (R-UT). 

If you were not already aware, Senator Kent Conrad sponsored  “The Comprehensive Telehealth Act of 1999,” which would make telehealth services more widely available.   This act addresses four areas to integrate telehealth into the health care system: Medicare reimbursement for telehealth services; periodic reports to congress; development of telehealth networks; and, telehealth licensure.  The telehealth licensure section should be of particular interest to telehealth providers, telephone nurses, and all those interested in interstate licensure issues.

This part of the Act asks the Secretary of Health and Human Services to look into easing the licensing burdens of telehealth practitioners who now are forced to be licensed in every state they administer telehealth services.  So…. 

The connection: telehealth licensure issues are similar to telephone nursing licensure issues.  The problem: many telephone nurses are not aware of the licensure issues that they must follow, or worse, most telephone nurses are doing nothing to let their own voice be heard or get involved in the political process.  How many of you have contacted your State Board of Nursing, your state senator or representative to let them know the barriers to telephone nursing practice and the burden to consumers the current licensure restrictions impose? 

I encourage you to communicate your experiences concerning obstacles that impose barriers to your telephone nursing practice under your existing nurse practice act and current regulations requiring additional licensure in states you receive or direct calls to or from to your state nursing board, senators, and representatives.  Get involved and keep informed.  Please link to your Congressperson’s website, voice your opinion, offer suggestions and always let them know that you would appreciate a response.  Let’s see how many responses we can get.  Remember, your voice can make a difference!   

"If your are wondering whether or not it is really worthwhile to communicate your views to your senator or representative in Congress, consider this fact.  Others who disagree with you are doing so constantly..."  Jim Wright, former Speaker of the House, in his book, "You and Your Congressman."

Helpful Links: www.ncsbn.org and www.thomas.loc.gov

Date: 10-30-99 Copyright Carol M. Stock 1999.  All rights reserved. 

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and are not intended as specific legal advice.



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