On March 17, The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
relaxed HIPAA regulations
for covered health care providers using telehealth during the public
health emergency due to COVID-19, effective immediately. This change
allows for the use of any non-public facing remote communication
product (video chat applications) to provide telehealth services. This
includes Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google
Hangouts video, and Skype.
The OCR has issued
about its use of enforcement discretion related to HIPAA and
See the HHS
HIPAA and COVID-19 website
for all OCR HIPAA announcements and guidance.
On April 21, 2020, CMS issued an
explanatory guidance document
of the Stark Law
(issued March 30, 2020). Retroactive to March 1, the blanket waivers
provide protection from the Stark Law as long as the financial
relationship pertains to at least one COVID-19 purpose. (Note: Stark
Law waivers are not the same as Stark Law exceptions. Be certain to
consult with your health care lawyer in connection with application of
the blanket waivers and the OIG policy statement.)
Prescribing controlled substances
DEA-registered practitioners may now issue prescriptions for
controlled substances to patients for whom they have not conducted an
in-person medical evaluation, provided certain conditions are met.
Read the DEA announcement.
(March 16, 2020)
COVID-19 Information Page
SAMHSA: DEA Information on Prescribing for Controlled Substance by
Emergency rule change for Schedule II prescribers: On April 21, 2020,
the Pharmacy Quality Assurance Commission temporarily eased the
regulations on practitioners who prescribe Schedule II substances due
to the COVID-19 public health emergency. The emergency rule increases
the amount of time a practitioner has to deliver a signed prescription
when authorizing an emergency prescription of a Schedule II substance
to the pharmacy from seven days to fifteen days. The emergency rule
also allows for a practitioner to accomplish the "signed prescription"
requirement through paper, electronic transmission, facsimile,
photograph, or scanned copy. The
is effective immediately and will remain enforce for 120 days.
Substance use disorder treatment
SAMHSA has offered flexibilities to states to ensure that individuals
being treated with medication for opioid use disorders can continue to
receive their medication during the the COVID-19 pandemic. See their
website for complete
On March 31, 2020, SAMHSA and DEA released
providing flexibility to prescribe buprenorphine to new and existing
patients with opioid use disorder via telephone.
Provision of Methadone and Buprenorphine for the Treatment of
Opioid Use Disorder in the COVID-19 Emergency.