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Can My Initial Medical Provider Visit Be Virtual?

Can My Initial Medical Provider Visit Be Virtual

Telemedicine and Medical Cannabis are similar in a lot of ways. Both have been around for an awfully long time but were not widely accepted until recently. How ironic. At any rate, we hear from a lot of new patients who wonder if their initial medical provider visit can be conducted virtually. The simple answer is “no.” But let us unpack that.

The short explanation is this: all initial visits, which is to say visits designed to get that first Medical Cannabis recommendation, must be in-person visits. Follow up visits for card renewal can be virtual if they are conducted with the same medical provider. Simple enough. Now, let us look at the details.

A Bit of Policy Confusion

Utah’s Medical Cannabis law spells out what we just described. But apparently, there was some confusion about the policy. So much so that the state sent out a bulletin in 2022 clarifying the statute. In that bulletin, they reiterated the need for initial visits to be in-person visits.

The bulletin went even further to clarify what an in-person visit was. According to the law, an in-person visit is defined as medical provider and patient meeting in the same location, in the same room, and face-to-face. This precludes any sort of telemedicine visit the first time around.

This policy applies to both Qualified Medical Providers (QMPs) and Limited Medical Providers (LMPs). So here it is as simply as we can state it: patients must meet face-to-face with their medical providers, in the same physical location, in order to get the initial recommendation for Medical Cannabis.

Virtual Visits for Renewals

Fortunately, the law recognizes that requiring periodic visits for Medical Cannabis card renewal does put an additional burden on patients. Therefore, patients are allowed to meet with their medical providers virtually at renewal time. There is one caveat though: a patient must meet with the same provider who made the original Medical Cannabis recommendation.

If a patient chooses to visit with a different QMP or LMP at card renewal time, that visit must be in-person. The new medical provider is required to conduct the same thorough examination and review of the patient’s medical history. That needs to be done face-to-face so that the medical provider can confirm both diagnosis and the recommendation of Medical Cannabis as an appropriate treatment.

You Have Many Options

We want to close out this post by reminding you that you have many options in terms of medical providers. When the Utah Medical Cannabis program was first launched a few years back, only QMPs could make recommendations. Only QMPs could help patients obtain their first Medical Cannabis cards.

Shortly into the program, it became abundantly clear that there simply weren’t enough QMPs to meet the demand. The difficulty in meeting with a QMP was exacerbated in rural areas where there were none to be found. So the legislature got to work and approved the LMP program.

Nearly Every Medical Provider

The LMP program invites nearly every medical provider with prescribing authority in the state of Utah to participate. What does this mean to you, practically speaking? If you are unable to visit with a QMP in your local area for any reason, your family doctor or GP can act as your medical provider under the LMP program.

Just remember that your initial medical provider visit needs to be in-person. Your medical provider will evaluate your current health, look at your past health history, and ask you plenty of questions. Provided your qualifying condition is appropriately treated with Medical Cannabis, you should have no trouble obtaining your card.

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Published April 11, 2023

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