Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Questionable practices need to be policed
We put a lot of trust in professionals. Doctors and medical professionals, in particular, are trusted with our health and well-being. With so much responsibility on their shoulders and the growing complexity of medicine, strict standards must be upheld.
One practice is raising serious questions in Victoria among residents and medical professionals. Dr. Courtney Morgan's Drive Thru Doc opened in January at 302 W. Rio Grande St. Since then, the Victoria Advocate received reports of patients visiting the clinic and receiving prescriptions without being physically examined by a doctor. When a reporter contacted Morgan about these reports, Morgan said they were not true and that he always examines patients before giving them a prescription, even if it means driving from his normal practice at 2710 Hospital Drive, Suite 104, to the Drive Thru Doc location. However, when another Advocate reporter went to the location to get a prescription for her allergies, Morgan did not come to the location. He spoke with the reporter on the phone for about five minutes then prescribed the steroid prednisone.
This incident raises several red flags for us. Morgan's insistence that he examines every patient in person is suspect because we have at least three accounts where that was not the case. The Texas Administrative Code says "prescription of any dangerous drug or controlled substance without first establishing a proper professional relationship with the patient" violates the Medical Practice Act. The code goes on to define what constitutes a proper relationship and says, "An online or telephonic evaluation by questionnaire is inadequate."
Morgan equates his work at Drive Thru Doc to the growing telemedicine trend and said he wants to make going to the doctor more convenient for residents. But the reports we have received, including the experience of our reporter, do not match up with the standards of telemedicine. According to Telemedicine.com, there are three ways telemedicine can be used: over live video with the patient and their primary care physician on one end speaking with a specialist; electronically, where the patient's health care provider sends information on the patient's medical history and current affliction - complete with pictures, video and radiology images - to a specialist via email or through an online server; and at home, where a patient will be connected to equipment that monitors vitals, offers video conferencing and has alarms that can be transmitted to a nearby hospital. None of these apply to what we have seen and were reported about Drive Thru Doc.
In addition to these concerns, members of the Victoria medical community have expressed doubts about this method of practice. The majority of pharmacies in Victoria will not fill these prescriptions because of the perceived lack of doctor/patient relationship. We encourage members of the medical community who have these concerns to speak up and report their concerns. Prescribing medicine is a big responsibility that could have dangerous results, especially if patients are already taking other drugs that do not mix well with the new prescription. Morgan's professional relationship with patients who come to the Drive Thru Doc location is questionable at best.
Doctors and others in the medical field have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. One wrong decision can have a horrendous effect on the patients they treat. That is why it is so important for the medical community to police itself. Who else would best know what is right and wrong than a fellow doctor? We encourage members of the Victoria medical community to voice their concerns to the Texas Medical Board. If the practice passes inspection, Morgan should be free to practice, but if he does not, Drive Thru Doc should be shut down.
Medicine is too vital to be treated like fast-food.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.