It doesn’t take a genius to understand that technological innovations make the world a whole lot more convenient — and it’s no exception in the healthcare industry. With telehealth software, care providers can speak with their patients from the comfort of their own homes. However, no matter how effective this technology is, it does have its limits.
HIPAA has placed many restrictions on telehealth services. While they were loosened in recent years because of a worldwide event you’ve probably heard of, they’re beginning to tighten their hold once more. To learn more about the changes that are being made to telehealth compliance, here’s a look at how it will affect healthcare providers and how they should respond.
Telehealth Compliance and HIPAA: What You Need to Know
First, let’s take a brief look at HIPAA as a refresher. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) exists to provide regulations and best practices for sharing sensitive healthcare data. If a patient’s protected health information (PHI) is leaked, then it can land their care provider in hot legal water. As telehealth services were developed over time, they naturally became subject to HIPAA compliance for the sake of protecting PHI.
However, this all changed in 2020. Telehealth compliance with HIPAA regulations was loosened considerably by The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In response to the pandemic, the HSS permitted healthcare providers across the country to use communication services without the risk of violating HIPAA standards. This flexibility is granted only during the Covid-19 pandemic emergency — when there’s no longer an emergency, then the regular standards will revert back to normal.
Major Changes to Telehealth Compliance
While the HHS has extended the public health emergency for Covid-19 several times over, it’s not going to last forever. The age of the pandemic will — legally — end for healthcare providers on October 13, 2022, meaning that from then on, their telehealth services must once again be compliant with the original HIPAA regulations. Zoom, Facetime, and other non-HIPAA-compliant services will no longer be acceptable forms and communication and will result in a violation and fine.
As healthcare organizations continue to recover financially from the pandemic and address new variants, many don’t want HIPAA relaxations to end. After federal and state governments enforce stricter guidelines for how telemedicine is offered, a number of patients will no longer be able to receive the care and services they need. One notable change to telehealth compliance that many providers aren’t looking forward to is the curtailing of remote care services across state lines.
Is This the End of Telehealth?
During the pandemic, healthcare providers and patients alike have grown used to the convenience of telemedicine services — and thankfully, they aren’t going away entirely. While non-HIPAA-compliant systems will no longer be permitted, a wide range of new communication innovations has become available. Patients have also been asking for more user-friendly features and controls in telehealth tools, meaning that compliant software will only continue to grow from here.
Additionally, the proven benefits of telehealth care have captured the attention of both healthcare organizations and legal legislators. They’ve been attempting to make changes to legal regulations so that the convenience of telehealth can continue well beyond the pandemic emergency. However, it is unclear what advancements they will be able to make, so providers must be prepared for anything.
Transitioning Away From Current Regulations
Meanwhile, even if telehealth compliance regulations and technology continue to improve, healthcare providers still need to prepare to transition. Moving forward, they’ll need to ensure that the telehealth programs they currently use meet HIPAA standards — lest they face regulatory issues in telemedicine. Providers need to develop a detailed understanding of the health care laws set forth by both the state and federal governments. By identifying what processes and programs they need to change, they’ll be able to remain HIPAA compliant.
If you’re searching for a way to seamlessly transition your organization into the new HIPAA regulatory requirements, then contact MedTrainer today. We offer a wide assortment of digital programs to help you avoid regulatory issues in telemedicine. From our IT compliance checklist to our OIC exclusion check software and much more, MedTrainer makes following regulations easy.