On April 15, 2016, the State Medical Board of Ohio (Ohio Board) released proposed rules outlining the requirements for practitioners to prescribe or cause a prescription drug to be provided to a person who is at a location remote from the practitioner and for whom the practitioner has never conducted a physical examination. The proposed rules were a result of Ohio Revised Code Section 4731.74, enacted March 23, 2016, which tasked the Ohio Board with developing clear standards for practitioners who treat patients through telemedicine platforms. The proposed rules will replace Ohio Administrative Code Rule 4731-11-09.

Ohio defines “the practice of telemedicine” as “the practice of medicine in this state through the use of any communication, including oral, written, or electronic communication, by a physician located outside of this state.”i While this definition only references physicians, the Ohio Board has indicated that the proposed rule will also be applicable to podiatrists and physician assistants who have prescriptive authority. Any practitioner who treats a patient located in Ohio through telemedicine must be licensed by the Ohio Board or possessing a limited Ohio telemedicine certificate issued by the Ohio Board.

With regard to non-controlled substances, the proposed rules will authorize a practitioner to establish a practitioner-patient relationship by the use of appropriate technology in a manner consistent with the minimal standard of care for in-person treatment by a practitioner. This encompasses a medical evaluation and the collection of relevant clinical history as needed to establish a diagnosis, identify any underlying conditions, and identify any contraindications to the treatment recommended or provided. This information must be documented in the patient’s medical record along with confirmation of the patient’s identity, the patient’s physical location, and the patient’s informed consent for treatment through remote examination.

In accordance with the proposed rules, controlled substances may only be prescribed by a practitioner who has met the steps outlined above for authorizing non-controlled substances and one of the following situations exists:

  • The person is an “active patient” of a health care provider who is a colleague of the practitioner and the controlled substances are provided through an on call or cross coverage arrangement between the health care providers. Note that “active patient” means that within the previous 24 months, the practitioner conducted at least one in-person medical evaluation.
  • The person has been admitted as an inpatient or resident of an institutional facility such as a hospital, nursing home, or psychiatric facility.
  • The practitioner is appropriately engaged in the practice of telemedicine as defined in 21 C.F.R. 1300.04.

The Ohio Board’s proposed rules follow similar recent developments from other state licensing agencies, including Indiana, West Virginia and Washington State. The Ohio Board is accepting comments regarding the intended regulations through Thursday, May 12, 2016.