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 FAQs about its use of enforcement discretion related to HIPAA and telehealth
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 blanket waivers (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)
DEA 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 emergency rule 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 information.
On March 31, 2020, SAMHSA and DEA released guidance providing flexibility to prescribe buprenorphine to new and existing patients with opioid use disorder via telephone.
SAMHSA FAQs: Provision of Methadone and Buprenorphine for the Treatment of Opioid Use Disorder in the COVID-19 Emergency.