State Medical Board of Ohio Relaxes Regulations in Fight Against COVID-19
On March 18, 2020, the State Medical Board of Ohio (“Board”) held a special meeting, which resulted in the temporary suspension of certain regulatory enforcement activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Effective immediately, the Board will suspend enforcement of any regulations requiring in-person visits between providers and patients. This includes enforcement of regulations that typically require an in-person visit prior to prescribing medications, including controlled substances such as opioids and medical marijuana. The Board’s action could result in considerably enhanced use of telemedicine in Ohio now that the traditional hurdle of an initial face-to-face visit is no longer required for the near future. Importantly, providers must act in good in faith in establishing or continuing the provider-patient relationship.
The suspension will remain in effect until the expiration of Governor DeWine’s Executive Order declaring a State of Emergency in Ohio as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.[i] Once the Executive Order is lifted, the Board will provide advance notice before resuming enforcement activities.[ii]
Effective immediately, the Board will also suspend enforcement of the continuing education requirements for the renewal of all licenses issued by the Board, including physicians, physician assistants, and anesthesiology assistants. For example, the Board is temporarily suspending the requirement that Ohio physicians obtain 50 hours of Category 1 CME at the time of license renewal. This action will apply to renewals due by March 1, 2021. However, all existing adjudicatory orders and consent agreements that have separate continuing education requirements will remain in effect and will be enforced.
The Board has authorized its staff to work with the State Emergency Management Agency, or other identified governmental entities, to effectuate Ohio licensure eligibility for out-of-state doctors who are called upon to respond to the COVID-19 emergency in Ohio. The Board’s language regarding emergency licensure is somewhat vague and does not guarantee that any and all applicants will receive a license. Nevertheless, the Board has, at a minimum, given staff members enhanced flexibility in possibly waiving typical licensure requirements.
Guidance on the mitigation and prevention of the spread of COVID-19 is rapidly changing. Health care professionals should be constantly monitoring relevant sources for any updates or changes. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your Dinsmore attorney.
[i] Executive Order 2020-01D
[ii] When treating new patients via telemedicine, providers should still remain mindful of federal requirements pertaining to controlled substance prescribing, which have also been relaxed during this public health crisis. For further information, see: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/coronavirus.html.