While state medical boards and legislatures continue to debate the value of online care vs. in-person care, the American Telemedicine Association is pushing the envelope with its first accreditation for online patient consultations.
ATA executives say more than 200 organizations have registered for accreditation. The organization is seeking to create a set of standards to compare the ever-growing number of vendors offering telehealth and telemedicine services.
“In an age where the average consumer manages nearly all aspects of life online, it’s a no-brainer that healthcare should be just as convenient, accessible and safe as online banking,” ATA CEO Jonathan Linkous said in a press release. “This program ensures that online healthcare services are following the necessary standards, guidelines and laws to provide safe care to American consumers.”
American Well executives say the ATA's efforts underscore the gains being made by telehealth providers, which gained prominence in April 2014 when the Federation of State Medical Boards established a national model policy for telehealth.
In its evaluation of online care providers, the ATA lists 10 features that consumers should focus on:
- Access to information on credentials and qualifications of healthcare providers;
- Assurances that patient information and communications are secure and private;
- Access to comprehensive information about the providers and services offered;
- Access to the organizations ethics;
- A patient portal that offers secure access to one's medical records;
- A choice of healthcare providers for non-emergency care (if the organization features more than one provider);
- The freedom to change appointments or providers if requested;
- Details on the organization's legal entity, operations and commercial affiliations;
- The ability to register feedback and complaints; and
- Access to information that would help in making informed decisions about healthcare services.