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. What 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, email@example.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.
Because of the limitations on in-person care imposed by COVID-19, telemedicine has grown in popularity. Earlier this year, HB 307 was enacted, which amends the definition of Telemedicine by allowing audio-only telephone visits:
[W]hen no other means of real-time two-way audio, visual, or other telecommunications or electronic communications are available to the patient due to lack of availability of such real-time, two-way audio, visual, or other telecommunications or electronic communications, due to lack of adequate broadband access, or because the use of other means of real-time two-way audio, visual, or other telecommunications or electronic communications is infeasible, impractical, or otherwise not medically advisable.
Importantly, whether audio-only communication should be used is “determined by the health care provider providing telemedicine services to the patient or as determined by another health care provider with an existing relationship with the patient.” HB 307 also authorizes health care providers to provide telemedicine from their homes and to patients who are in their homes, workplaces, or schools.
The Georgia Rules and Regulations touch on telemedicine in Rule 360-3-.07 by outlining the conditions that must be met to provide “treatment and/or consultation recommendations by electronic or other such means.” One such rule that is crucial for expanding the use of telehealth is condition 3, which generally requires the patient to have been seen by a provider in person prior to offering telemedicine unless “[a] Georgia licensed physician, physician assistant or advanced practice registered nurse . . . [i]s able to examine the patient using technology or peripherals that are equal or superior to an examination done personally by a provider within that provider’s standard of care.”
In addition to these state laws and rules, providers must also comply with state and federal laws including licensing, prescribing controlled substances rules, and, when applicable, CMS rules.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also learn more about our law firm by visiting www.hamillittle.com.
*Disclaimer: Thoughts shared here do not constitute legal advice.