Ferrante said that while time is of the essence with COVID-19, hospitals must balance the urgency with compliance and legal considerations with telehealth practices. “There are a lot of butterfly effects occurring because of COVID-19,” Ferrante said. “If they haven’t done a lot of telehealth before, maybe they don’t turn the faucet on all the way. You could do harm if you don’t have the correct systems in place. If you’re worries about billing, maybe hold the claims and look at them later.
Waltz noted that waivers of certain federal requirements also are a catalyst for telemedicine. For one thing, CMS said it temporarily waived “requirements that out-of-state providers be licensed in the state where they are providing services when they are licensed in another state” for Medicare and Medicaid billing.In other words, CMS isn’t requiring in-state licensure, said Waltz. “Any old licensure will do.”
But that’s only half the equation because providers are still bound by state law. Fortunately, “states are following up on that approach,” allowing physicians licensed in any state to go to another state to practice, she said. There are complications for telehealth, however, which requires state approval for out-of-state providers to treat patients without an in-person visit. The first to act was Florida, with a March 16 emergency order relaxing some licensure and practice standards for health care professionals treating people in connection with COVID-19, Waltz said. Among other things, the emergency order allows physicians and nonphysician assistants who hold valid unrestricted licenses in states outside of Florida to provide health care services to Floridians via telehealth, she said. Washington state’s waiver was approved by CMS on March 19 and had telehealth features in it.