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
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 Telemedicine
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
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.