On April 13th of this year, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) revealed a significant telehealth update as they granted a 90-day transition period for healthcare providers to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) regarding telehealth services once the Public Health Emergency (PHE) ends. This transition period will begin on May 12th, the day after the PHE ends, and will expire at 11:59 p.m. on August 9th.
During the PHE, providers weren’t required to be licensed in the state where their patient was located. This allowed them to provide care to patients in other states. In addition, non-HIPAA-compliant systems were permitted during the emergency. Both of these flexibilities will be granted during the 90-day transition after the PHE, according to the Department of Health and Human Services OCR.
Background and How This Affects You
Per an OCR notice earlier in April, HIPAA Enforcement Discretion will expire with the end of the PHE. Before this, the OCR issued four Notifications of Enforcement Discretion for specific violations of HIPAA rules during the PHE.
These notifications are:
- Enforcement Discretion Regarding COVID-19 Community-Based Testing Sites During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency, effective from March 13th, 2020, to 11:59 p.m. May 11th, 2023.
- Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID–19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency, effective from March 17th, 2020, to 11:59 p.m. May 11th, 2023.
- Enforcement Discretion Under HIPAA To Allow Uses and Disclosures of Protected Health Information by Business Associates for Public Health and Health Oversight Activities in Response to COVID-19, effective from April 7th, 2020, to 11:59 p.m. May 11th, 2023.
- Enforcement Discretion Regarding Online or Web-Based Scheduling Applications for the Scheduling of Individual Appointments for COVID-19 Vaccination During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency, effective from December 11th, 2020, to 11:59 p.m. May 11th, 2023
With the OCR’s newest telehealth update, practices nationwide will still be able to operate under these enforcements during the 90-day extension without penalty. This will provide post-acute long-term care practices with the necessary time to prepare for life after the PHE.
OCR director, Melanie Fontes Rainer, went on record saying, “OCR is continuing to support the use of telehealth after the public health emergency by providing a transition period for healthcare providers to make any changes to their operations that are needed to provide telehealth in a private and secure manner.”
With such strong support from the Office of Civil Rights, practices can continue providing telehealth services without HIPAA compliance until August 9th of this year.
Before then, Saisystems Health will keep you updated with the latest news in post-acute long-term care. In the meantime, click here to check out our newest post covering the Omnibus bill and how it will extend most telehealth services for another two years.