Law & Health Care Program hosts International Telemedicine Roundtable

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On April 7 and 8, 2022, the Law & Health Care Program, along with the Journal of Health Care Law & Policy and the UMB Center for Global Engagement, hosted a Virtual Roundtable on “Addressing Legal and Regulatory Barriers to Increase Access to Healthcare Through International Telemedicine.” This event was a timely revisitation of the topic on which we held a similar event a decade earlier.

The two-day event, held virtually to accommodate distinguished speakers from around the globe, was a stimulating discussion about a variety of hot topics in the world of global telemedicine. Guests discussed their cutting-edge telemedicine work and the legal hurdles facing providers, from the US/Mexico border during the early days of COVID to Ukraine and its neighboring countries in 2022.

The event kicked off with a lively discussion of a hypothetical case, drafted by Drs. Joseph (Joe) McMenamin and Dale Alverson, addressing many of the clinical and legal challenges facing telehealth providers around the world. These legal challenges include licensing, technology, and language barriers, to name just a few.

These two speakers were well-suited to open the event. Both speakers were members of the planning committee for the roundtable event, but also helped lead the 2013 Symposium and Roundtable on Legal Impediments to Telemedicine. Dr. Alverson, MD, FAAP, FATA, is a former President of the American Telemedicine Association and involved in collaborative international programs to advance Telehealth nationally and globally. He is also Professor Emeritus and Regents’ Professor at the University of New Mexico where he has served as the Strategic Telehealth Consultant for the Center for Telehealth and currently the Chief Medical Information Officer at SYNCRONYS, managing the state-wide health information exchange. Of the conference, Dr. Alverson shares that he was “privileged to be involved…, understanding the important role of telehealth globally and the need to understand better the opportunities and challenges related to a spectrum of legal and regulatory challenges unique to each country with respect to digital health transformation around the world as well as the benefits of working collaboratively to enhance meaningful access to healthcare internationally. The recent pandemic amplified that need to build those telehealth programs within and between countries and this conference offered an important step in sharing related experience and expertise as we look toward the future.” Dr. McMenamin, MD, JD, is the founder of McMenamin Law Offices in Richmond, Virginia, where he concentrates on the law of digital health and of artificial intelligence in health care. He noted that “in the decade since” the Law & Health Care Program’s prior telehealth law conference, “distance care has established itself as a pillar of the American healthcare system, and has become a force to be reckoned with on the international scene as well. The law governing it, however, remains relatively undeveloped and is in some respects obsolete. The Law & Health Care Program provided a forum to explore the state of the law today, to consider the problems persisting under it, and to identify a path forward to enable the technology to achieve its potential.”

This first session was followed by a timely presentation on the Telehealth4Ukraine Initiative, a coalition working to establish a pathway for telehealth providers to support virtual humanitarian healthcare efforts in Ukraine and the surrounding region. Day 1 wrapped up with a discussion of comparative telehealth models from around the world, led by legal experts in telemedicine policy from Canada and Belgium. The speakers provided an enlightening comparison between the Canadian legal regulation of telemedicine, which is regulated and billed primarily at the provincial level with some federal regulation of data privacy and medical devices, and the model in the European Union, which allows for regulation and licensure at the national level but also disallows discrimination or baseless denial of services due to nationality or location.

The second day began with a panel addressing issues facing U.S. providers serving international patients, with participants from the University of San Diego School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Jones Day, and a boutique concierge medicine company for Americans traveling abroad. The event wrapped up with a panel on innovative ideas in telehealth, with guests from the World Telehealth Initiative, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, URAC, and the International Society for Telemedicine & eHealth.

The event provided an opportunity for expert presentations and informal dialogue on the pressing issues limiting or improving access to health care services through cross-border telehealth services. The event successfully brought together an impressive group of interdisciplinary practitioners in this highly specialized area for insightful conversations, sharing of best practices, and the strengthening of professional relationships. You can find the full agenda, list of attendees, and recorded sessions here.