An Oklahoma doctor was penalized on Thursday for allegedly prescribing medicine via the Internet video-messaging platform Skype. These prescriptions were given by Dr. Thomas Trow, of the eastern Oklahoma town Park Hill, without an initial in-person evaluation.
According to a News OK investigative report, the medications included “controlled dangerous drugs," such as Xanax and other potent narcotic pharmaceuticals. One of Trow’s patient’s — known as “R.C.” in official documents — was subsequently treated for three incidents of drug overdosing within a six-month period, according to the medical board review.
Although doctor-patient chats via Skype are growing in popularity across the country, this video chat platform is not approved for telemedicine communication in Oklahoma. The popular messaging system does not meet Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards for web-based security, meaning privileged health conversations on Skype between physicians and patients are vulnerable to hackers.
Many hospitals and healthcare providers are working with private telemedicine companies to create innovative systems that provide HIPAA compliance.
Trow cited his own failing health as his reason for using Skype.
“He said his (registered nurse) traveled to the various satellite clinics and presented the patients to him via Skype,” a board investigator wrote in the complaint against Trow, according to News OK. “He stated that he did not think he had to see patients in person since they were psychiatric patients.”
Three of Dr. Trow’s patients — including R.C. — died while under his care, although those deaths were not ultimately attributed to Trow during his disciplinary hearing. Trow was given two years of medical probation and must complete a course on prescribing rules before seeing patients again.