Can Medical Doctors Legally Be Coaches?

Can Medical Doctors Legally Be Coaches?

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In today’s video, we talk about how a physician can have a dual role, one is treating the patient and the other is providing online education.

I’m Michael H. Cohen, founding attorney of the Cohen Healthcare Law Group. We help industry clients navigate the very complex healthcare and FDA legal and regulatory environment so they can launch, or continue to scale, their health and wellness product or service.

Let’s say the physician sees a patient in his or her state, but also wants to create a platform to reach patients and customers across states.  The physician is only licensed in one state and has targeted states where the medical doctor can’t get a telemedicine license, for whatever reason.

Here, the challenge is to give only give education and information and not provide clinical information.

Let’s say the medical doctor is a specialist in something – could be sleep disorders, healing from dysfunctional relationships, mood disorders, digestive and gut issues, emotional health, cognitive decline, spirituality, any number of specialized health or wellness arenas.

Whether or not the clinicians call themselves a “health coach” isn’t particularly of concern right now.  We have a ton of content dealing with health coaching on our blog, so if that’s interesting to you, turn to the blog and videos.  Our focus today is on what the MD actually can do to try to build the argument that they are not practicing medicine online in these other states, but rather are sticking to a purely educational and informational platform strategy.

Here are our top recommendations. They are not be-all and end-all but they’re good recommendations:

One, as we’ve said before, be careful about detailed medical intakes.

Two, also be careful about ordering and interpreting lab tests.

Three, disclaim, very prominently the clinical role if you’re a doctor, put a disclaimer talking about the more limited, educational role that you will be adopting.

Fourth, consider whether or not to engage one-on-one with patients, you could have anything from a generic Q&A that goes out to everybody to confidentially answering individual in a secure email portal.  By the way, simply getting a portal that calls itself “HIPAA-compliant” won’t address the issues surrounding unauthorized practice in the states where the physician is not licensed.

Five, think about the difference between giving generic advice vs giving very individualized medical guidance. So, a static book or a blog or YouTube channel, that’s very different than individual clinical advice.

And finally, a disclaimer isn’t the be-all and end-all, but, it can help in terms of limiting potential liability exposure.

If you would like an early read, please book a Legal Strategy Session with us. I’m sure you’ll enjoy talking to a member of our Attorney Team.

Thanks for watching. Here’s to the success of your healthcare venture, we’d love to talk to you we look forward to speaking with you soon.


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  • Impressive credentials are only overshadowed by their clear awareness of practical strategies to help Physicians navigate modern healthcare and achieve successful outcomes.

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    James Riviezzo Practice On Your Terms

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