Telemedicine Will Soon Be Restricted in Virginia. It Shouldn’t Be


*Originally published on

Telemedicine Will Soon Be Restricted in Virginia. It Shouldn’t Be

If you use any technology to contact your doctor remotely, you might be surprised to know that your physician may be unknowingly committing a crime, especially if you live near a state line. These laws are rarely enforced and were waived during the COVID-19 pandemic. A bill introduced during this year’s Virginia General Assembly would have made it easier for physicians to practice telemedicine beyond Virginia’s borders, but unfortunately, it gained no traction.

Physicians like me are typically licensed only in the state in which they practice, and therefore, they are allowed to provide care only within that state’s borders. If you contact your physician while outside the state in which he or she is licensed, your physician is not legally allowed to provide you with any care or recommendations.

With the widespread adoption of telemedicine during COVID-19, this is becoming much more of an issue in health care, particularly in Virginia, because it impacts physician reimbursement and liability. Patients and clinicians alike have found telemedicine to be an effective way to address many medical conditions, and a great option for disabled patients or patients living in rural areas where physically going to an office is difficult. Over the past three years, telemedicine has become a standard practice among medical providers. Over one-third of medical visits in 2022 were done by telemedicine.

During the COVID-19 health care emergency declaration, interstate practicing laws were waived, and physicians and other health care providers were allowed to provide telemedicine across state lines. Now, many states are lifting the public health emergency declaration, which will reinstate the laws restricting interstate practice. As a result, many providers are veering away from telemedicine again to avoid legal and malpractice pitfalls. Virginia has already declared that the public health emergency will end May 11, and with it the protections for providers who care for patients outside of their jurisdiction.

A growing group of states has forecast the issues that would be caused by again limiting interstate medical care. They have joined an entity called the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, an agreement among states to allow medical providers licensed within one member state to provide care in any of the member states. Currently, 37 states belong to this compact, but not Virginia. Legislation was introduced in Virginia’s House of Delegates in January to join the IMLC, but the bill was left in committee.

Unless Virginia acts quickly and joins the IMLC, after May 11 health care in the state will revert back to the arcane laws established long before video telemedicine became such a viable and crucial part of health care. A patient who lives in Bristol, Tennessee, but sees a physician in Blacksburg, Virginia, because of his work site will not legally be able to call his physician on a night or weekend from home if he gets sick. A disabled person who lives near the Outer Banks in North Carolina will not be able to contact her specialist in Norfolk unless she travels in person. As a physician, I will not be allowed to provide advice regarding abnormal test results to my patient visiting her family in another state.

Medical conditions are the same across state lines, so why shouldn’t medical care be the same? Legislators in 37 states recognize the importance of getting care from a doctor who knows you and whom you trust, regardless of location. Virginia legislators should follow suit and join the IMLC for the health and continuing care of Virginians, wherever they are.

Dr. Ken Zweig

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