COVID-19 Employer Playbook

Provider Electronic Communication Rules Relaxed

Summary Employers should be aware that the HHS’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has announced that it will not impose certain HIPAA penalties against health care providers using telehealth communications in good faith during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. In FAQ guidance, OCR explains that this enforcement relief applies to all services that covered health care providers, in their professional judgment, believe can be provided through telehealth during the COVID-19 emergency. Some of these technologies and the manner in which they are used by HIPAA covered health care providers, may not fully comply with the requirements of the HIPAA Rules. These services include diagnosis or treatment of both COVID-19-related conditions, such as taking a patient’s temperature or other vitals remotely and non-COVID-19-related conditions, such as a review of physical therapy practices, mental health counseling, or adjustment of prescriptions. In English, Please This means that medical providers can use technology, such as video chat or texting apps to communicate with patients who need care. Normally, a higher level of security would be required under the HIPAA Privacy rules, but in the interest of expanding access, these rules have been relaxed during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Which Technologies can be Used? The OCR specifically did not endorse or bless any specific technology for use but did provide a list of the types of platforms that would be acceptable. These include FaceTime, Skype for Business, Zoom, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, and Facebook Messenger. Why? In short, greater access for patients and limited risk for providers. This order allows providers to assess a greater number of patients while limiting the risk of infection of other persons who would be exposed from an in-person consultation. Does it Apply to COVID-19 Patients Only? No. A covered health care provider may provide similar telehealth services in the exercise of their professional judgment to assess or treat any other medical condition, even if not related to COVID-19, such as a sprained ankle, dental consultation or psychological evaluation, or other conditions. How is this Relevant for Employers? Employers should be aware of this relaxation of the rules that are intended to extend telehealth access to their employees that might otherwise have been restricted under HIPAA. Is Anything Else Relaxed Under HIPAA? No. All other rules for HIPAA Privacy and Security for Covered Entities, including group health plans, remain in force.


Insights provided by

© 2020 Vita. All Rights Reserved

Powered by