Updates on Using Telehealth During a State of Emergency
This week, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced, effective immediately, that it will exercise its enforcement discretion and will waive potential penalties for HIPAA violations against health care providers that serve patients through everyday communications technologies during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. Read more.
In response to the pandemic, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) now allows for the disclosure of health needs to another health provider without written consent under the medical emergency exception under 42 CFR, part 2. Providers should document such disclosures and why they are being made. Read more. For more guidance on Enforcement Discretion for telehealth remote communications during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency, please see this federal Health and Human Services memo.
For most services (except exceptions noted in the next session), OBH rule does not limit the use of telemedicine and telehealth options at licensed and designated facilities. Telemedicine and telehealth should be used with clients when appropriate. For best practices in telehealth and telemedicine, please see this HealthIT.gov guide.
Statute does not limit the use of telehealth for the following circumstances:
- Placing individuals on 72-hour mental health hold procedures (M1s)
- Administering involuntary psychiatric medications
- Providing medical services to individuals in jail
Billing for Telehealth: During this period, our providers may document these encounters and submit billing to OBH contracts as they would otherwise for an in-office, in-person service. Even though the Uniform Service Coding Manual may not otherwise allow for telehealth, OBH will not enforce that criteria, starting now through the end of May, at which time we will reassess. If providers have issues with submitting data to OBH, which is used for billing support, please have them contact OBH Senior Data Compliance Manager Sharon Pawlak at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Department of Health Care Policy and Financing is sharing changes to their telemedicine policy here.
The Department of Regulatory Agencies’ Division of Professions and Occupations has Emergency Licensing Measures for Healthcare Professionals here.