Dr. Harry Boye of Tennessee qualified for his Montana license earlier this year, and he’s even made two visits to see patients who need a doctor’s authorization to use medical marijuana.
But Dr. Boye didn’t spend just a few minutes each with hundreds of patients, a common practice for some doctors at medical marijuana clinics. On his two trips, he saw fewer than a dozen patients. And he conducted examinations of all of them, averaging from 22 to 30 minutes, reports Linda Halstead-Acharya of the Billings Gazette.
According to Boye, he reviews the each patient’s medical record during the consultation, and conducts an examination geared toward the condition that brought the patient in.
“My purpose is to identify that population that may benefit from the use of marijuana in the management of their ailments,” he said. “My sole purpose is to open that door. I still must recognize good medical judgment.”
While Boye doesn’t guarantee that he’ll recommend medical marijuana to a patient, he said he wants to protect the option — and keep it professional.
He laments the fact that public outcry over current medical marijuana practices keeps some people from seeking the help that might do them good.
“It would be daunting for a 68-year-old female suffering from terminal ovarian cancer to go through,” Dr. Boye said. “That’s a cruel and thoughtless thing to do to somebody.”
Boye is convinced that lots of his fellow doctors share his views, but won’t speak out due to the stigma associated with Montana’s current medical marijuana industry.
|Graphic: Nexus Patient Services|
He recently hired on with Nexus Patient Services in Billings as part of his effort to change that perception. He learned about the clinic from a Helena attorney, but especially wanted to contact its founders after seeing recent media coverage.
“Some of the things that were happening in the state got national publicity,” he said.
Reporter Diane Cochran of the Billings Gazette recently described how she was able to get a medical marijuana card with an eight-minute online interview. According to Cochran, she was never asked for medical records or proof that what she told the physician was true.
That needs to change, according to both Boye and Nexus cofounder Christine Lemire. Lemire said the clinic’s mission is simple: Create an avenue linking legitimate patients with physicians not opposed to medical marijuana as an alternative treatment method.
The clinic emphasizes the physician-patient relationship, meets HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) confidentiality requirements, offers follow-ups and is operated by appointment only.
A consultation with Boye costs $200, which includes a follow-up visit. A refund of $150 is issued if the physician does not certify a patient for medical marijuana. The remaining $50 is charged for the medical records review and accompanying physician visit.
The online Skype consultations like reporter Cochran’s cost $150.
Nexus Patient Services is designed as a certification clinic only, which means Boye does not make the original diagnosis. “We don’t want to circumvent the basic primary care physician,” Boye said.
Above all, each patient is required to provide medical records.
The clinic has no direct link to caregivers, dispensaries or marijuana growing operations. Boye is adamant that a separation should exist between the caregiver and the clinic.
“That conflict of interest is so obvious,” Boye said. “Caregivers should not be involved in the certification process at all. Zero. Zip. And the clinic should not be a retail outlet for anything.”
Caregiver Amanda Skewis of Yellowstone Valley Herbs has no official affiliation with Boye or the clinic — Nexus does not make referrals to caregivers — but she discovered that the facility differed greatly from what she’s seen elsewhere.
“The ability for a patient to have an examination with a physician who is physically present follows the directive of the law in providing a true patient-doctor relationship,” she said. “The fact that they schedule follow-up care is also an exception to the current standard.”
“We only offer face-to-face medical consultations with a licensed physician,” the Nexus website reads. “We comply with the Montana Board of Medical Examiners’ Position Paper on Medical Marijuana and thus believe that a true physician-patient relationship can only be accomplished by a legitimate, face-to-face appointment and not via the internet or a videoconference.”
Skewis, Boye and Lemire hope the public will reconsider the positive values of medical marijuana, and that their efforts will promote a sense of respect for an industry that has evoked controversy.
“It’s only an option to provide qualify of life,” Boye said. “It’s about the patient. I’ll argue with anybody about that.”