Health Coaching and Telemedicine

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I’m spending an increasingly large percentage of my time counseling physicians who want to distance themselves from medical practice and move into more of a coaching world. Now, some physicians want to stay on the medical side. Others want to expand their practice and their role into more of an educator, assisting people with lifestyle changes and nutrition, but not serving in a clinical capacity. With this shift in physician emphasis comes a shift in how to deliver services. Increasingly, many physicians are turning to technology, specifically the online consult, in order to scale what they offer while keeping their overhead low.

The first thing to remember is that online services typically are considered telemedicine, healthcare practice at a distance. During a telemedicine visit with your patient, you will be subject both to the telemedicine laws of your state and those of the state where the patient’s located. This is known as the remote state.

It’s important to get telemedicine legal counsel to be sure you don’t run afoul of either state’s laws. Practicing medicine without a license in a remote state is considered criminal, so if you’re not licensed in a remote state, this can be an issue.

As I’ve suggested, some physician clients want to say that they’re only doing health coaching. That’s fine as long as they’re aware that there is a slippery slope between health coaching on one hand and medical advice on the other. Let me help clarify the difference.

Let’s say you’re going to review lab tests or use diagnostic and therapeutic language, like saying, “You’ve got diabetes.” Then that’s clearly the practice of medicine. On the other hand, if you’re going to review a patient’s lifestyle goals and habits, say, discuss their late-night habit of raiding the refrigerator for a donut, this more likely falls on the coaching side.

If you’re interested about finding more about the difference, we’d be pleased to talk to you.

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