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What are the new rules on implementing telehealth into practices during this time?

Effective March 17, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) provided notice that, during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency, covered healthcare providers may use popular video chat applications to provide telehealth without risk that OCR might seek to impose a penalty for noncompliance with HIPAA Rules related to the good faith provision of telehealth.

Permitted applications include:

  • Apple FaceTime
  • Facebook Messenger video chat
  • Google Hangouts video
  • Skype
  • Zoom

Curi recommends using a HIPAA-compliant vendor, but these other video chat solutions may be an appropriate interim solution for practices to use until a HIPAA-compliant telemedicine solution can be implemented.

Read the full announcement from the OCR: Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency

On March 20, 2020, OCR issued additional guidance on telehealth remote communications. The new guidance came in the form of frequently asked questions and clarifies how OCR is applying the notification to support the good faith provision of telehealth.

Some of the FAQs include:

  • What covered entities are included and excluded under the notification?
  • Which parts of the HIPAA rules are included in the notification?
  • Does the notification apply to violations of 42 CFR Part 2, the HHS regulation that protects the confidentiality of substance use disorder patient records?
  • When does the notification expire?
  • Where can health care providers conduct telehealth?
  • What is a “non-public facing” remote communication product?
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All Curi recommendations are based on current CDC criteria at the time of publication. CDC guidance for SARS-CoV-2 infection may, or may not, be adopted by state and local health departments to respond to rapidly changing local circumstances. Providers should always check with their local health department to see if the CDC’s guidance on any given topic has been modified (particularly if more restrictive) from the CDC’s recommended guidelines. Follow this link https://www.cdc.gov/publichealthgateway/healthdirectories/index.html for contact information to your state/local health department. If local recommendations vary from those of the CDC, and you are unsure what recommendations to follow, then it is safer to follow the more restrictive guidelines/recommendations.