Author: Amy Kabaria
The federal government has issued waivers and has indicated it will be exercising enforcement discretion with regard to certain requirements and penalties in order to help companies provide telemedicine services during this public health emergency. Various states have also enacted changes such as the Illinois Governor's recent executive order significantly relaxing rules surrounding telemedicine. The laws and regulations on a state by state basis are very much in flux at the moment and do not always exude clarity but the general theme is that telemedicine is being encouraged and prior roadblocks are being removed or at least reduced for now.
1. HIPAA Flexibility: Health care providers may use popular applications through their personal phones and computers to provide real-time audio-visual telemedicine services at this time. While previously a doctor could only use limited, HIPAA compliant applications (such as Zoom), those rules have been relaxed for now and telemedicine may be provided by FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc. However, "public-facing" apps such as Facebook Live should not be used. Any options for encryption should be enabled. So long as providers are acting in good faith, the HHS Office will waive penalties for HIPAA violations.
2. Medicare Telehealth Services Billing: Practitioners may provide Medicare telehealth services to beneficiaries at the same amount as in-person visits. To broaden access to services, CMS has announced the following policy changes with regard to real-time audio-visual telehealth visits and without regard to treatment or diagnosis type:
4. Prescriptions: The DEA is permitting practitioners to issue prescriptions for controlled substances through real-time audio-visual interactive telemedicine communication with patients for whom they haven't conducted an in-person medical evaluation, as long as the practitioner is acting in accordance with applicable federal and state laws and the prescription is for a legitimate medical purpose by a practitioner acting in the usual course of his/her practice.
Please contact Amy Kabaria if you have any questions or concerns on these areas or wish to further understand particular state-specific provisions (click here to to email Amy).
NOT LEGAL ADVICE
Please be advised that we have provided the information contained here as a courtesy and while we have sought to be as current and accurate as possible we do not represent the accuracy of anything contained here. Nothing contained here should be considered legal advice.