Floridians overwhelmingly skeptical of telemedicine, FMA survey shows

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Floridians are overwhelmingly skeptical of telemedicine, just as state legislators consider statewide standards for healthcare providers to practice medicine over the Internet.

Telemedicine supporters argue that medical coverage provided online holds promise for many residents in rural parts of Florida, who can simply log onto to a computer to teleconference with their primary care physician for standard consultations, diagnoses and prescriptions.

Remote patient viewing is also pushed as another way to address the looming primary-care physician shortage in Florida.

In a survey released today, the Florida Medical Association — which represents more than 20,000 health care providers across the state — asked a group of likely voters about permitting doctors not licensed by the state of Florida to treat in-state patients through telemedicine.

Seven in ten (70 percent) said they oppose the idea. Only 26 percent support it.

Of those who said they opposed  allowing out-of-state physicians to treating Florida patients, many felt intensely about it. Fifty seven percent of respondents said they “strongly oppose” the idea, while 13 percent said they only “somewhat oppose.”

Floridians also show a strong stance against allowing doctors who practice telemedicine from another state to prescribe drugs and controlled substances for Florida patients. Nearly three quarters of voters (74 percent) oppose expanding drug privileges — with 62 percent strongly opposing — and only 23 percent favor the idea.  

Another overwhelming majority do not want healthcare practitioners — other than physicians — to practice telemedicine in Florida. Seventy one percent of respondents oppose allowing other providers to offer telemedicine services, with 52 percent “strongly opposed.” Only 24 percent support it.

One of the major hurdles in expanding telemedicine in Florida is doctor reimbursement by health insurers. Currently, insurance companies in Florida do not have to reimburse doctors for telemedicine services, so there are no guaranteed payments for Web-based consultations. Many doctors are not licensed to practice in other states, nor do they have credentials to practice at different hospitals.

Voter/Consumer Research conducted the survey of 606 likely Florida voters for the Florida Medical Association from February 1-5, with a margin of error +/- 4 percent.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.