Telehealth, Remote Dr. Visits – Now more Widely Available
“Medicare patients can now visit any doctor by phone or videoconference at no additional cost, including with commonly used services like FaceTime and Skype,” Trump said during a White House press briefing. “A historic breakthrough — this has not been done before.”
President Trump declared a state of national emergency over COVID-19 on March 13, 2020, allowing him to invoke a number of emergency measures such as the National Emergencies Act. In addition to expanding the power of state and municipal authorities to combat COVID-19, Trump specifically mentioned the importance of telehealth services in helping combat the spread of the virus and supporting social distancing mandates. This has lead the Enforcement Discretion for telehealth remote communications during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.
“A covered health care provider that wants to use audio or video communication technology to provide telehealth to patients during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency can use any non-public facing remote communication product that is available to communicate with patients. OCR is exercising its enforcement discretion to not impose penalties for noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth using such non-public facing audio or video communication products during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. This exercise of discretion applies to telehealth provided for any reason, regardless of whether the telehealth service is related to the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions related to COVID-19.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
This allows Americans with Medicare to use telehealth to administer services even if they are not in a rural community, which was one of the only situations in which telehealth services were previously covered. In addition to doctors and nurses, other healthcare providers, including dermatologists, psychologists and social workers, will also be able to provide virtual healthcare services to those with Medicare, and other insurance providers.