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The Role Of Telehealth In COVID-19 Response Efforts

As encouraged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthcare providers have a unique and pressing opportunity to use telehealth tools to address COVID-19 preparedness and offer telehealth services to potential COVID-19 patients. However, healthcare providers’ response to the COVID-19 outbreak highlights some of the barriers to the provision of telehealth services.

IN DEPTH


As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States grows, healthcare providers are stepping up their response planning. To combat the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urged healthcare systems and providers to deploy all of the resources necessary to ensure health system preparedness. The CDC recommended the use of telehealth tools to help address COVID-19 preparedness and to assist in directing patients to the right level of healthcare for their medical needs.

Healthcare providers have a unique and pressing opportunity to offer telehealth services to potential COVID-19 patients. At the same time, healthcare providers’ response to the COVID-19 outbreak highlights some of the barriers to the provision of telehealth services. Providers considering using telehealth as part of their COVID-19 response efforts should take the following factors into consideration:

  • While healthcare providers cannot diagnose COVID-19 through a telehealth visit, they can perform a number of services without requiring a patient to visit crowded medical facilities where the virus might be present. These services include performing initial patient screenings, assessing and assigning risk categories to patients, determining if a patient needs to seek diagnostic testing, and answering patient questions and offering treatment recommendations.

  • Deploying telehealth services is not without its challenges. The varying reimbursement policies of private, state and federal payers, as well as differing state-based medical licensing requirements, may burden providers and patients with confusion, economic inefficiencies and onerous processes in a difficult engagement context.

  • As part of the COVID-19 response discussions, telehealth advocates propose that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reduce or eliminate its long-standing telehealth reimbursement restrictions. This change would allow Medicare to pay for virtual visits during national emergencies, regardless of originating site or geographic location. There is also a push to waive the lengthy enrollment process telehealth providers must undergo to be paid by Medicare.

  • While telehealth has the potential to assist in a healthcare system’s response to COVID-19, providers still must comply with state laws and regulations that govern telehealth, including but not limited to professional licensure, scope of practice, standard of care and patient consent, in addition to the reimbursement requirements and limitations put into place by third-party payers.

    • Typically, telehealth providers must be licensed in the state in which the patient is located, although certain states have exceptions that telehealth providers may leverage in response to COVID-19.

    • Telehealth providers must practice within the scope of practice of the profession in which they are licensed and within the standard of care set forth by the governing professional board in a given state.

    • State telehealth laws may require a specific modality for telehealth consultations (e.g., audio-visual consultations). Likewise, third-party payers may require a specific modality for telehealth consultations for purposes of reimbursement.

© 2020 McDermott Will & EmeryNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 63

TRENDING LEGAL ANALYSIS


About this Author

Lisa Schmitz Mazur, Health Law Attorney, McDermott Will Law Firm
Partner

Lisa Schmitz Mazur is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm’s Chicago office.  Lisa maintains a general health industry practice, focusing on the representation of hospitals and health systems and other health industry providers.

Lisa’s representation of hospitals and health systems includes providing guidance on not-for-profit corporate governance matters, tax-exemption issues, conflict of interest compliance and overall corporate compliance effectiveness.  In addition, Lisa regularly assists hospital and health system clients to...

312-984-3275
 Dale C. Van Denmark MWE Partner DC, Regulatory, Government & Lobbying Strategies  Health Care  Life Sciences
Partner

Dale C. Van Demark advises clients in the health industry on strategic transactions and the evolution of health care delivery models. He has extensive experience in health system affiliations and joint venture transactions. Dale also provides counseling on the development of technology in health care delivery, with a particular emphasis on telemedicine. Dale has been at the forefront of advising clients with respect to the globalization of the US health care industry. He advises US and non-US enterprises with respect to the formation of cross-border affiliations and international patient programs. In addition to writing regularly on matters related to his practice, Dale has spoken at numerous conferences around the world on the globalization of health care.

He is also a member of our legal cannabis industry group. Our Cannabis Industry group is a multidisciplinary team of lawyers providing clients with regulatory, litigation, intellectual property, trade and tax services with respect to their investments and participation in the cannabis industry, all subject to the Firm’s obligations under federal and state laws and bar licensure rules.

Results

  • Frequently serves as lead transaction counsel for leading academic medical centers in affiliations with and acquisitions of community health systems

  • Frequently serves as lead transaction and general counsel for community health systems seeking affiliation and acquisition partners

  • Recently served as lead transaction counsel for a health system in the acquisition of a licensed managed care company

  • Recently advised a leading telemedicine company in the design and implementation of its core business strategy

  • Recently advised a leading academic medical center on the establishment of an affiliation with a Gulf State health care provider for the development of specific service lines in-country

  • Recently advised a leading academic medical center on the establishment of an affiliation with an Asian industrial enterprise for the purpose of developing Asian hospitals

202-756-8177
Marshall E. Jackson, Jr. Partner  Washington, DC Regulatory, Government & Lobbying Strategies  Healthcare  Digital Health
Partner

Marshall E. Jackson, Jr. focuses his practice on transactional and regulatory counseling for clients in the healthcare industry, as well as advises clients on the legal, regulatory and compliance aspects of digital health.

 

Health Transactions and Regulatory Compliance

Marshall provides counseling and advice to hospitals and health systems, private equity firms and their portfolio companies, post/sub-acute providers, physician practices, and other public and private healthcare companies in a variety of complex transactions and health regulatory...

202-756-8019