Articles Posted in Telehealth

As a healthcare and business law firm, we work with may healthcare providers and employers who wish to integrate telehealth into their business models and, understandably, have questions.  4-300x169What is telehealth versus telemedicine?  What laws and rules govern the practice of telemedicine?  Has COVID-19 impacted telemedicine?  Etc.  This post intends to outline some of the rules and laws relevant to practitioners, including the impact of HB 307 on telehealth in Georgia.  If you have questions regarding this blog post or telehealth, you may contact us at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 (Augusta), or by email, info@hamillittle.com.

As an initial matter, telehealth and telemedicine are distinct terms.  Telemedicine is a subset of telehealth.  The definitions of both are found within Georgia’s insurance code.   Telehealth is defined as “the use of information and communications technologies, including, but not limited to, telephones, remote patient monitoring devices or other electronic means which support clinical health care, provider consultation, patient and professional health related education, public health, and health administration.”  O.C.G.A. § 33-24-56.4(b)(6).  “Telemedicine” is defined as:

[A] form of telehealth which is the delivery of clinical health care services by means of real time two-way audio, visual, or other telecommunications or electronic communications, including the application of secure video conferencing or store and forward transfer technology to provide or support health care delivery, which facilitate the assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, education, care management, and self-management of a patient’s health care by a health care provider practicing within his or her scope of practice as would be practiced in-person with a patient, and legally allowed to practice in this state, while such patient is at an originating site and the health care provider is at a distant site.

Telemedicine has new and profound importance due to the COVID-19 crisis.  “Virtual” healthcare preserves patient protective equipment that would otherwiimage_4-e1587393250939se be used and allows physicians to manage chronic illnesses remotely, without the in-person interaction that exposes provider and patient to the risk of spread. This increased reliance on telemedicine has prompted state and federal legislative bodies to pass new rules and guidelines to promote access to telehealth services by reducing costs, increasing availability, and promoting relationships between healthcare providers and their patients.   Our Georgia-based business and healthcare law firm follows regulatory developments that impact healthcare providers.  As of the date of this post, seven states (Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, and Utah) have waived restrictions on telehealth. More relaxation of telehealth rules may be expected.

 New Regulations: an Overview

Virtual medicine is expected to aid in slowing the spread of coronavirus by limiting contact between individuals.  New telemedicine regulations encourage video and audio conversations between providers and their patients.  Telemedicine platforms can serve a variety of functions, some assist with managing patient triage, while others provide alerts to providers and patients in regard to medication management.  Other platforms allow for effective monitoring of chronic illnesses for patients, even with the strict social distancing guidelines that are currently in place. Thus, as part of an effort to allow healthcare providers to better support each other and their patients, the federal government has reduced the regulatory hoops that have previously limited access to Telehealth services. The CMS Fact Sheet discusses in depth the changes that have been made to provide virtual services.

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