“Telehealth” was already on track to becoming a major force in medical services, and the events of the last few years have simply accelerated that process – and every physician needs to be conscious of certain compliance issues that can crop up.
If you’re offering (or about to offer) telemedicine to your patients, there are several things you need to keep in mind. These include:
Data privacy and HIPAA
Because there was a public health emergency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services waived some of the data security requirements that were normally in place to protect patient privacy under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
That made it possible for more providers to offer telehealth services even if they didn’t have compliant communication platforms in place. However, that grace ended on Aug. 9, 2023. Now, it’s critical to make sure that your telehealth platform meets HIPAA standards.
Standards of care
Telehealth makes it possible for physicians to provide better service to a great number of patients because not every visit with a provider really needs to take place in person. However, physicians need to remember that they’re still held to the same standard of care, no matter whether they see the patient in their office or over a computer screen.
That means knowing when they need to direct a patient to emergency services or arrange for second opinions or consultations with experts. It can also mean simply deciding that an in-person follow-up visit is necessary. Careful documentation of a patient’s condition, diagnosis and any recommended treatment is also important.
If you’re a medical provider who is uncertain about the compliance risks of telemedicine or you’ve already run afoul of regulations, legal guidance is wise.