Posted By Administration,
Thursday, August 31, 2017
By Alex R. Thiersch, JD, Founder/Director of the American Med Spa Association (AmSpa)
Whether telemedicine is legal in medical spas and medical aesthetic practices is a hot-button issue. Little more than a decade ago, you likely would have been laughed at if you told someone that in 2016, most people would be walking around with high-definition (HD) video cameras in their pockets, but here we are. That’s why medical aesthetic practices should pay attention to telemedicine rules and regulations, even if it is not currently legal in their states.
Telemedicine is the use of electronic telecommunication technology to provide healthcare services to patients, and it is becoming central to the medical landscape. Theoretically, medical aesthetic practices could stand to benefit a great deal from using telemedicine, since conducting initial exams for minor medical services such as the ones provided by medical spas can be a drain on resources if they must be conducted in person. However, the laws that govern telemedicine are evolving, so medical spa owners and operators should familiarize themselves with the legal issues surrounding the practice and decide if they want to to give it a try. When looking for legal advice be sure to consult an attorney who is familiar with medical aesthetic laws in your state. (AmSpa members receive a complimentary compliance assessment with the business/healthcare/aesthetic law firm of ByrdAdatto.)
Conceivably, telemedicine could change the way medical aesthetics practices conduct initial examinations. Most states require a licensed healthcare professional – a physician, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner – to conduct an initial examination, generally face-to-face, with each patient prior to the administration of medical services. As a result, compliant medical aesthetics practices tend to need to have at least one licensed professional onsite at all times.
But what if you could simply reach a healthcare professional as needed instead of paying one to be in the office all the time? That’s the prospective advantage of telemedicine. Ideally, a healthcare professional could conduct examinations over a telecommunication protocol such as Skype or FaceTime, and the practice would not need to pay a premium to have a licensed professional onsite all day, every day.
A Legal Matter
This practice inspires a few questions. Can a healthcare professional conducting a remote examination detect all skin conditions or abnormalities that could complicate medical aesthetics procedures? Moreover, can such an exam sufficiently establish the doctor/patient relationship? Lawmakers across the country are currently evaluating these issues and more, as legislation governing telemedicine is still evolving and open to interpretation. No consensus of opinion exists from state to state or even lawyer to lawyer regarding the practice. Telemedicine is the topic of entire week-long conferences, which should give you some idea about the amount of controversy surrounding it.
Many states have telemedicine laws on the books, and they do generally tend to allow it, but typically for continuing care and consultations with specialists in other cities, states and even countries, rather than initial examinations. If a patient is already under the care of a doctor, telemedicine is more widely accepted than if a healthcare professional conducting an initial exam has never met the patient in person.
In Illinois, for example, the state medical board does not look favorably on the practice, despite the fact that there is no actual law prohibiting it on the books. In Texas, on the other hand, state legislators have passed a law that sets very specific standards for how an offsite consultation must work. It is permitted, provided the healthcare professional performing the offsite consultation is in a specific location and working under particular conditions. California’s medical board also allows telemedicine, provided certain conditions are met.
Some issues that still need to be sorted out include the question of whether a doctor can conduct initial exams on patients in states other than the one(s) in which he or she is licensed to practice. Historically, it has been difficult for physicians to obtain medical licenses in multiple states. However, an initiative known as the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (IMLC) aims to help provide healthcare to underserved areas via telemedicine by making it easier for doctors to acquire medical licenses in multiple states. As of now, medical boards in 22 states are in various stages of adoption of this accord. Check the IMLC website to learn if your state is among them.
A side effect of IMLC adoption is that it will soon be realistic for medical spa chains to conduct initial exams from a central location, which certainly could help expand their profit potential. This aspect of the story is developing, but it could have industry-altering ramifications.
Learn About It
With imaging technology such as Visia improving rapidly and HD video becoming even sharper and more lifelike, conducting initial exams via telemedicine may very well be the industry’s future.
Learn more about telemedicine and many other legal topics of interest to medical spas at AmSpa’s Medical Spa and Aesthetic Boot Camps. We will be hitting San Jose, Calif., on Sept. 18 and 19, the Chicago suburbs on Oct. 14 and 15, and Atlanta on Nov. 6 and 7. We hope to see you there!
Just how well do you know the medical spa industry and the clients that you serve? Would you be surprised to learn that Chemical Peels are the number one service provided in a medical spa? AmSpa's 2017 Medical Spa State of the Industry Report is here to help you decide on which treatments to offer, and how you can receive the biggest return on your investment.
Let's take a look at the Top 5 Most Popular Medical Spa Treatments:
1. Chemical Peels
A chemical peel is a technique used to improve the appearance of the skin on the face,
neck or hands. A chemical solution is applied to the skin that causes it to exfoliate and
eventually peel off. The new, regenerated skin is usually smoother and less wrinkled
than the old skin.
2. Aesthetician Services
Aesthetician services involve skin care and beauty treatments such as facials, makeup
applications, and hair removal through electrolysis, waxing or other techniques.
3. Botox and Filler Injections
The injection of botulinum toxin--commonly known as Botox, Dysport or Xeomin--
has become very popular for reducing wrinkles and rejuvenating the aging face. First
granted U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to treat frown lines in 2002,
Botox remains one of the most popular cosmetic procedures on the market, and its
popularity continues to rise.
Microdermabrasion skin rejuvenation is used as a method of exfoliation, as well as to
treat light scarring, discoloration and sun damage, and stretch marks. Treatments include
using a minimally abrasive instrument to gently sand your skin, removing the thicker,
uneven outer layer.
5. Photo-facial pulsed light (IPL)
Intense-pulsed light (IPL) is a technology used in various skin treatments, including hair
removal and photofacials. A handheld flashgun is passed across the skin, delivering a
spectral range of light that targets the hair or skin issue. These types of treatments may
also be called laser skin rejuvenation, photorejuvenation, or laser resurfacing.
Here's an infographic from the report that shows how all Medical Spa treatments measure up.
AmSpa members receive a complimentary copy of the report's executive summary. Join today and receive your copy!