It is very hard to predict what comes after COVID-19 for telehealth.
During COVID-19, many healthcare providers quickly made the switch to providing care remotely. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) enabled this switch by temporarily using its discretion not to enforce all HIPAA security telehealth regulations.
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Once the coronavirus emergency subsides, will telehealth continue to be as widely utilized?
It is likely that telehealth will continue, however, the movement towards telehealth in recent months has shown that there are still obstacles to overcome. These include:
- Access to high-speed internet for patients and physicians,
- Limitations on services provided remotely,
- Need for interpreters,
- Security of devices and telehealth platforms, and
- Patients’ need for access to devices.
There is also the issue of crossing state lines. Physicians will need to be aware of where their patients are and ensuring that they are complying with medical restrictions in that state.
Telehealth is not likely to replace all in-person visits.
While telehealth can be a great tool, there are many medical needs that need to be attended to in an office. Many treatments, vaccines and screenings cannot be provided through a cellphone.
Whether telehealth continues to be popular also depends on whether payers will pay for it.
During COVID-19, many people became more familiar with telehealth and telehealth platforms.
If your office plans to continue offering telehealth services after COVID-19, make sure that you are in compliance with all regulations and state laws.
OCR has indicated that the telehealth waivers will not last forever, and HIPAA security regulations will be enforced after the COVID-19 emergency. They have not yet provided a date of enforcement.
Also make sure that your office’s HIPAA policies and procedures are up to date and account for remote visits.
If you aren’t sure whether or not you are in compliance, or need help updating your practice’s policies, contact your healthcare attorney.
At least for now, telehealth is here to stay.
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