Telemedicine refers to the practice of providing medical consultations via video conferencing. While its advent took place pre-pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis significantly boosted the importance and benefits of telemedicine. As Dr. Brian William Hasselfeld of Johns Hopkins Medicine points out, telemedicine allows patients to avoid drives to the doctor’s office. Instead, they can see their doctors in the comforts of their own homes.
The practice also offers some valuable benefits. “Telemedicine can give some specialty practitioners an advantage because they can see you in your home environment,” writes Dr. Hasselfeld, “For example, allergists may be able to identify clues in your surroundings that cause allergies. Neurologists and physical and occupational therapists can observe you and assess your ability to navigate and take care of yourself in your home.”
Georgia nurse practitioner sentenced to prison for telemedicine fraud scheme.
44 year-old, Sherley L. Beaufils found a way to take advantage of the benefits of telemedicine. As a result, earlier this week, she was sentenced to 87 months in prison. As reported by the Southern District of Georgia branch of the United States Department of Justice, Beaufils participated in an illegal kickback conspiracy involving telemedicine. In addition to her prison term, she was ordered to pay over $1.6 million in restitution.
“As described in court documents and testimony, Beaufils, as a nurse practitioner, facilitated orders for more than 3,000 orthotic braces that generated more than $3 million in fraudulent or excessive charges to Medicare,” explains the DoJ, “Co-conspirators captured the identities of senior citizens, identified through a telemarketing scheme, and bundled that information as ‘leads.’”
As part of the scheme, Beaufils signed her name to fake medical records.
She falsely claimed to have provided examinations of patients. In exchange for money, Beaufils created orders for orthotic braces for patients she never met or spoke with. They included a knee brace for an amputee and a back brace for a recently deceased patient. She also created orders for other durable medical equipment. Her fraudulent orders were then sold to companies to generate reimbursement from Medicare.
Special Agent in Charge Tamala E. Miles, with the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) has this to say about the sentencing: “Beaufils exploited vulnerable populations, undermined patient trust, and wasted valuable taxpayer dollars in order to maximize her own profits. HHS-OIG, alongside our law enforcement partners, is committed to investigating and holding accountable those who engage in health care fraud.”
“Beaufils falsified medical records and examinations for her own personal greed,” added Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, “We are proud of the work our agents and law enforcement partners are doing to end this abuse of taxpayers and the Medicare system.”
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