Order Regarding Office Visits/Outpatient Procedures; Telehealth and HIPPA

Posted March 18, 2020

Order Regarding Office Visits/Outpatient Procedures

On Saturday,  Governor Andy Beshear requested that all hospitals cease performing elective procedures by the close of business today, March 18.  Today, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services issued an order that all health care providers “cancel all procedures that in the opinion of a physician the delay will not cause harm to the patient or negatively affect the patient’s life expectancy.” Following discussions with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure issued a notice to physicians this afternoon:

“It is our understanding this directive applies to all procedures no matter the location or setting, which includes a physician’s in-office setting or outpatient surgery center. 

Please note the directive does give a physician the discretion whether a delay will not cause harm to the patient or negatively affect the patient’s life expectancy.” 

The directive from the Cabinet states that all elective procedures, encompassing all levels of care be cancelled as of midnight tonight, March 18.

Telehealth & HIPAA

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to the Department for Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights to announce yesterday that they will not impose penalties on physicians using telehealth in the event of noncompliance with the regulatory requirements under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The announcement goes on to detail that physicians may utilize popular applications that allow for video chats, including Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, or Skype, as well as traditional telephone or cell phone calls, to provide telehealth without risk that OCR might seek to impose a penalty for noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules. Physicians should not use Facebook Live, Twitch, TikTok or other public facing communication services.

Physicians are encouraged, but not required, to notify patients of the potential security risks of using these services and to seek additional privacy protections by entering into HIPAA business associate agreements (BAA). HHS also noted that while it hasn’t confirmed such statements, Skype for Business, Updox, VSee, Zoom for Healthcare, Doxy.me, and Google G Suite Hangouts have said that their products will help physicians comply with HIPAA and that they will enter into a HIPAA BAA.

Physician Resources:

Kentucky Department for Public Health Emergency Department (ED) Flow Chart for COVID-19 Testing
Providers guidance for determining whether a patient should receive the COVID-19 test

AMA Quick Guide to Telemedicine in Practice
Providers guidelines and resources to help physicians expedite the implementation of telemedicine