Doctors Without Clinics: The Overnight Rise Of Telemedicine To Combat COVID-19

Bradford E. Adatto | 3.23.20

Many of you are familiar with the organization Doctors Without Borders.  But very few would have ever thought of a day when doctors could no longer work in their office clinics.  How do you continue to treat patients when the federal, state, and local government is banning elective medicine?  Many of our clients are shifting overnight to doing medical consults only via telemedicine as a means to continue to treat their patients without direct contact.  Countless clinics, however, have not implemented a policy or guidelines on how to implement this strategy.  A good policy needs to protect the patient’s privacy, abide by the state’s telemedicine rules on the proper standard of care, and comply with the prescriptions laws with regard to controlled substances.


The federal and state governments are passing laws and issuing exceptions to many of these rules faster than we can write about it.  Those medical clinics wishing to stay open using telemedicine need to understand the new normal.


Last week, the OCR issued new Notification of Enforcement Discretion for telehealth during the COVID-19.  The OCR statement basically allows providers to use less-than-perfect solutions under the security standards.  Including, “…use any non-public facing remote communication product that is available to communicate with patients.”  Providers who want to use these platforms can use them as long as the provider advises patient of the risks and agrees to them, and the provider has taken reasonable steps to protect the patient’s privacy.   This can include finding a secure location and setting the security level in the “telemedicine” software to the highest encryption and security level.  As such, medical providers can work from home or another remote location via Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, or other Apps approved by this OCR notice and still render medical decisions for patients in less than perfect encryption standards.  To be clear, the OCR only wants you to use Apps that provide HIPAA-compliant video communication products and that the vendor will enter into a business associate agreement.  Facebook Live, Twitch, TikTok, and similar video communication applications are public facing, and as such would not be compliant.


Finally, the restrictions on rendering telemedicine across state lines have also been temporary waived by the federal government and many state authorities.  Please check with your local medical boards on what restrictions still apply.


At ByrdAdatto, we are working hard to ensure our clients are well equipped and ready for what is to come. Should you have questions about the new COVID-19 exemptions for the telemedicine laws, reach out to or call 214-291-3200.


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