Vetting Relationships for Telemedicine Collaborations

McDermott Will & Emery
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McDermott Will & Emery

As the telemedicine regulatory and reimbursement environment becomes more cohesive and providers and patients alike embrace technology, opportunities for telemedicine collaborations are likely to grow. Like any collaboration, finding the right partner is crucial for success, particularly at the highly-scrutinized intersection of healthcare and technology. This post explores the factors to address when evaluating service providers and vendors for your next telemedicine collaboration.

Service Provider Evaluation

  • Ask around “town” – What is the collaborator’s reputation? What independent feedback is provided in references?
  • Determine if the service provider’s stage in the organizational “life-cycle” and its affiliated relationships are the best fit for the strategic goals of your partnership (e.g. should you partner with an early-stage company or a longstanding organization?)
  • Assess the capabilities of potential collaboration partners for meeting your organization needs, and pressure test their ability to come up with back-up options, should the need arise throughout the course of the collaboration.
  • Determine whether collaborator has state specific and service specific policies and procedures governing the provision of telemedicine services, including:
    • Patient consent and standards for physician-patient relationship
    • Prescribing and standards of practice
    • Licensure and the utilization of extenders and other professionals
    • Maintenance of medical records and privacy
    • Oversight and training
    • Adherence to medical association “best practices”
  • Determine who will provide the services. Potential providers could include:
    • Service provider employees (or controlled groups)
    • “White-labelled” contracted providers
    • Sub-contracted local providers
    • Standards / credentialing requirements
  • Determine that provider is adequately insured
  • Determine if the provider is a good cultural fit for your organization (g. how do the prioritize compliance? What is their risk management approach?)

Equipment and Software Vendor Considerations

  • Determine whether the vendor’s technology is interoperable with existing IT infrastructure of both collaboration partners
  • Determine whether the technology to be used needs and has received clearance from the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), particularly in regards to the FDA’s guidance on software, mobile medical applications (MMA) and its evolving digital health initative
  • Does the vendor have a data-mapping methodology to accurately track contemplated data-flows?
  • Is the vendor experienced with health-specific data privacy and security issues, including HIPAA and other laws?
  • Determine the extent and nature of vendor’s rights to the technology on offer

Service providers and vendors are an important part of a successful collaboration, from the patient experience to regulatory compliance. Addressing these issues during the collaboration process can bring your next partnership closer to achieving its goals.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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