Brazil’s AMB seeks to block Amil’s telemedicine plans amid legal uncertainty

The Brazilian Medical Association (AMB) this week filed a complaint with the National Regulatory Agency for Private Health Insurance and Plans (ANS) over the rise of unregulated online health consultations offered by private facilities. The complaint was specifically raised in relation to Amil Participacoes SA, Brazil's largest health insurer and hospital operator, which recently began to offer virtual medical consultations.

Amil is reportedly set to provide a 24-hour telemedicine service offering diagnosis and potential drug prescribing for patients with mild complaints, the source citing sicknesses such as coughs and colds, stomach pains, diarrhea, nausea, allergies, headaches, backache, or eye complaints. Doctors will be permitted to prescribe drugs over the service where they feel confident in being able to give a diagnosis. The president of UnitedHealth Group Brazil, which owns Amil, Claudio Lottenberg, underlined that there are no legal issues with this service: “There is already a standardized mechanism for prescription drugs through digital certification" in Brazil. The online consultation service will initially be restricted to the 180,000 beneficiaries on the Amil One private insurance plan, but with plans to expand the scope in the near future.

The AMB stated that it has concerns for patients' health and the legal status of Brazilian physicians providing such services, and called for the ANS to step in and curb such activities immediately.

The legal environment for telemedicine is in something of a grey area at present after a resolution addressing the provision of virtual medical care – Resolution 1643 of 2002 – was published by the Federal Medical Council (CFM) in February this year, but later repealed after regional opposition. The CFM states it will begin receiving public feedback on revisions to that legislation from the end of this month.


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