Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, HHS (the US Department of Health and Human services) has released guidelines on telehealth services and audio-only visits for patients to meet with their healthcare providers. Due to the eventual conclusion of the pandemic, HHS has released the newest guideline for maneuvering through the latest changes.
Healthcare providers and entities that are covered under insurances may continue to offer telehealth and audio-only visits to their patients as long as it still follows HIPAA regulations. While access to some telehealth services may be more complicated for some, audio-only services that do not required broadband availability are still accessible. This guidance addresses these concerns and whether or not audio-only telehealth is permissible under HIPAA regulations. HIPAA requires safeguards to prevent any potential incidental uses or disclosures of a patient’s private information. For example, telehealth and audio-visits are expected to be held in private settings; if not in private-enough settings, at least they should be performed discreetly. “The Telehealth Notification provides that OCR will exercise its enforcement discretion and will not impose penalties on covered health care providers for noncompliance with the requirements of the HIPAA Rules in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth using non-public facing audio or video remote communication technologies during the COVID-19 PHE. As such, under the Telehealth Notification, covered health care providers can use any available non-public facing remote communication technologies for telehealth, even where those technologies, and the manner in which they are used, may not fully comply with the HIPAA Rules. The Telehealth Notification will remain in effect until the Secretary of HHS declares that the COVID-19 PHE no longer exists, or upon the expiration date of the declared PHE, whichever occurs first,” (HHS, 2022). Along with protecting the patients PHI, providers also have to keep in mind their accessibility to those with disabilities. This includes effective communication, which may result in auxiliary aids and language assistance, just to name a few. Covered healthcare providers may continue to offer telehealth and audio-only services that coincide with HIPAA rules and regulations, regardless of the patient’s insurance and whether or not their health plan pays for those services.
For more information, please visit HHS.GOV.
(OCR), Office for Civil Rights. “Guidance: How the HIPAA Rules Permit Covered Health Care Providers and Health Plans to Use Remote Communication Technologies for Audio-Only Telehealth.” HHS.gov, 10 June 2022, https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/hipaa-audio-telehealth/index.html?mkt_tok=MTQ0LUFNSi02MzkAAAGFC18_eMVv9V_yJW9oZ7kIljmgJJr4T6BGnZS1XJlgD0EfdSV2MU6oCTmkDXuD6Rq1Cdu0fu7STPWafVTsKForEg1iEMFQnk4ezzV4LVhrxA#footnote1_ahe58oj?utm_source=nl-gov-ed-washington-connection-2022-06-16&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=government-affairs.