Telehealth Emergency Regulations Becoming Permanent
On Monday President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order aimed at extending the availability of telehealth services due to end when the public health emergency is over. The administration has allowed for substantial relaxation of many of the Telehealth rules due to the emergency facing the country as a result of COVID-19. This order looks to make many of those changes permanent after the emergency order ends.
It is unclear exactly what aspects of Telehealth will become permanent but the order by the President stipulated now that regulatory agencies begin the processes of adopting the expansion of how Telehealth is used to make them permanent.
Health & Human Services have 60 days to expand Telehealth
According to the order, and an article from thehill.com, the secretary of the Health and Human Services (HHS) has 60 days to issue a proposed rule for extending certain measure put in place by the PHE, including (a) the additional telehealth services offered to Medicare beneficiaries; and (b) the services, reporting, staffing, and supervision flexibility offered to Medicare providers in rural areas.
In addition, the order specifically requires HHS to develop a new payment model to improve health care in rural communities.
Telehealth Joint Initiative to Improve Infrastructure & Communication
Additionally, the Telehealth regulations will have the federal government has 30 days to launch a joint initiative with the aim of improving connectivity and communication infrastructure for rural healthcare communities.
New Telehealth Regulations just the tip of the iceberg
This Telehealth regulation order is just the tip of the iceberg for the permanent adoption of Telehealth regulations. State Governments are likely to adopt many of these changes as well into their own regulations. Additionally, patients are turning to Telehealth to meet their healthcare needs in droves. Fairhealth.org, a non-profit entity that maintains the largest claims database in the country reports that “..between April 2019- April 2020 claims lines for Telehealth services grew by an astounding 8,335%”.
Don't Expect all Telehealth Regulations Will Become Permanent
However, as Providers and Patients take advantage of these relaxed Telehealth rules there are some that are unlikely to remain permanent. Specifically, those around not using a HIPAA secure Telehealth platform and the ability to communicate with patients using just the telephone. Those are two areas that both Federal and State governments are unlikely to continue to waive as the COVID-19 emergency eventually subsides.
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