Today's Edition Local Missouri National World Opinion Obits Sports GoMidMo Events Classifieds Newsletters Contests Special Sections Jobs

A legislative bill to increase the practice of telemedicine has the potential to benefit patients.

On Tuesday, we reported lawmakers are considering legislation to allow doctors to establish doctor/patient relationships virtually. In some cases, they would be able to diagnose patients without having met them.

While that has the potential for problems, it also could lead to better care.

A key part of the bill would change the definition of telemedicine to include adaptive questionnaire digital technology. That means asking questions that determine other questions, rather than asking a static set of questions.

It would let someone designated by a physical to use the questionnaire information to provide treatment.

Current law prevents health care providers from prescribing any drug, controlled substance or other treatment based on internet requests or "static" questionnaires, which don't have the ability to provide follow-up questions.

Critics of the bill said questionnaires can be fallible, and even adaptive questionnaires should not establish a patient/physician record.

We agree there's the potential for danger here, and we hope the bill addresses these.

Telemedicine has exploded, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the advantages is its convenience. It offers more timely health care and without long stretches in waiting rooms. Some said it also has drawn in people who otherwise would not seek health care.

Technology brings value to our lives in many ways, but it also creates pitfalls we must carefully avoid. The younger generation needs to remember texting doesn't replace face-to-face interactions, for instance. Apple Watches and Fitbits offer amazing ways to help with our exercise and our health. But they don't replace doctors.

It's the same with telemedicine. It has the potential to aid doctors and benefit health care consumers, but we don't foresee it supplanting doctors in the near future.

If the Legislature recognizes this, it can expand telemedicine in a way that will produce only positive results.