Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Iowa Judge Rules Against Telemed Abortion Treatment Services

A Polk County District Judge ruled that state medical providers in Iowa were well within their rights to ban physicians from prescribing abortion-inducing medication via telemedicine technology:
The 40-page ruling by Polk County District Judge Jeffrey Farrell is a victory for pro-life advocates who sought to halt a first-in-the-nation telemedicine practice at clinics operated by Planned Parenthood of the Heartland. Planned Parenthood officials said Tuesday they plan to appeal the decision.

The Iowa Board of Medicine voted 8-2 a year ago to approve an administrative rule that would establish standards of practice for physicians who prescribe and administer abortion-inducing drugs. Board members cited concerns over the medical care being provided to rural women as a reason to require in-person meetings between doctors and patients along with direct after-care services...

The rules were to take effect last Nov. 6, but a district judge granted Planned Parenthood’s request for a temporary stay that blocked the rule’s implementation pending this week’s outcome. Under Farrell’s ruling, the Board of Medicine’s rule would take effect in 30 days, but a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman said her agency planned an appeal to “block enforcement of a rule that ends abortion access” in rural and medically underserved areas...

At issue is a practice whereby licensed physicians use a remote-controlled system to conduct medical assessments with patients in rural Iowa clinics. They then are able to dispense Mifepristone, also known as RU-486, in the early stages of a pregnancy. 

Proponents say Planned Parenthood’s practice — implemented in 2008 — is safe and patients get the same level of care as those who see a doctor in person. They also contended the telemedicine procedure was thoroughly researched to ensure it was in full compliance with Iowa law and service helps women in remote parts of the state.
The Iowa Board of Medicine has argued that patients need direct access to medical doctors in order to be safely prescribed medications, such as RU-486.

Meanwhile, remote hospitals and clinics in Iowa are able to access TeleStroke out of Iowa City, which uses telemed-techonology to evaluate stroke patients and to remotely prescribe stroke medications.

Additionally, psychiatrists throughout the state routinely use telemed-technology to diagnose patients. They are allowed to use this technology to remotely prescribe psychiatric medication and then to routinely check in and re-evaluate the effectiveness of those treatments.

Those are two areas where telemedicine is used in Iowa. What other sources of telemedicine are you aware of?

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