Pill Mill Crackdown Endangers Telepsych Program

Scott Mace, for HealthLeaders Media , May 29, 2012

At least two bills pending in Congress would crack down on pill mills, those notorious health providers and pharmacies skirting the law to contribute to the epidemic of prescription drug overdoses in this country. The CDC's most recent data shows more dying in the U.S. from prescription drug overdoses than from overdoses of illegal drugs.

But the bills are written in such a way as to make illegal the telepsych consults in North Carolina if controlled substances are prescribed without the psychiatrist meeting face-to-face with the patient.

"While we support the effort to stop the inappropriate prescribing of prescriptions, this legislation could have negative and unintended consequences on important telehealth services that we deliver to our patients in western North Carolina," wrote Rowena Buffett Timms, senior vice president of government and community relations, in a letter to U.S. Senator Kay Hagen (D- NC).

As of press time, Sen. Hagen's office had not responded to my inquiry on this proposed legislation, but I hope that her effort to elicit feedback on the bill will result in an amendment that recognizes that face-to-face consultations in 2012 can also be achieved with a robot such as Mission Hospital's.

In her letter, Timms supports the effort to crack down on prescription drug abuse, unscrupulous clinics, and pill mills.

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