AMA approves online prescribing guidelines

September 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

The AMA has adopted guidelines to help physicians safely and securely prescribe medications to patients over the Internet.

The Chicago-based American Medical Association's House of Delegates has adopted guidelines to help physicians safely and securely prescribe medications to patients over the Internet.

The new AMA guidelines state that physicians should obtain medical history information and perform a physical examination before prescribing medications online. Prior to the passage of the new guidelines, AMA policy supported Internet prescribing, but stressed the need for appropriate safeguards to ensure that online communications did not replace any interpersonal aspects of patient-physician relationships.

"The AMA supports the use of this new technology to help physicians care for their patients," said AMA President-Elect John C. Nelson. "Physicians can refer to these new guidelines as they integrate online prescriptions into their practices while continuing to provide high-quality care."

Keeping the transaction secure

To protect patient safety and privacy, the new guidelines suggest physicians transmit prescriptions over a secure network that includes features such as password requirements and prescription encryption. The AMA states that physicians who prescribe medication using the Internet should either be licensed in the states where their patients live or meet the regulatory requirements of individual state medical boards.

The guidelines also suggest that physicians who prescribe medications to patients online should:

•Â Have adequate dialogue with the patient about treatment options, risks and benefits.

•Â Follow up with the patient as appropriate.

•Â Maintain an updated medical record that is readily available to the patient and to his or her other healthcare professionals (subject to the patient's consent).

•Â Include the electronic prescription information as part of the patient's medical record.

•Â Clearly disclose physician-identifying information on the Internet, such as name, practice address and financial interests in any products prescribed.

The guidelines were based on recommendations prepared by the AMA's Council on Medical Service. The council reviewed current AMA policy related to the issue, as well as additional council reports and AMA testimony on Capitol Hill to develop the information. PR

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