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Christopher R. Brigham
Helene Fearon
Steven Feinberg
Barry Gelinas
David Langham
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J. Mark Melhorn


Virtual independent medical evaluations (IMEs) have become and are likely to remain common even after the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic ends, but virtual health care and virtual examinations are not simply a matter of moving to a new platform—rather, they require a transformation that affects all stakeholders. Innovative solutions necessitated by virtual IMEs potentially can improve both quality and efficiency. The American Medical Association (AMA) defines telemedicine as health-related services that are synchronous and asynchronous and include a variety of tools and platforms that allow clinicians to connect with one another and patients (a box provides information about AMA's ongoing telehealth initiative). Physicians who plan to perform virtual evaluations must have the appropriate policies, procedures, and security in place; resources are available from the AMA Guides series of publications. Each component of the virtual IME, including each data element, should be assessed to determine best practices and how to use virtual technologies successfully. The credibility of virtual IMEs may hinge on the examiner's ability to explain both what was done and why it was as efficacious as an in-person alternative or perhaps as useful as any other alternative under the circumstances. One challenge is to master the tools used in virtual IMEs and another is to obtain stakeholders' acceptance of the virtual process, but this will come with time, experience, and effective physician performance.

in AMA Guides® Newsletter