When the current National Public Health Emergency was declared in March of 2020 by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the standard HIPAA regulations were relaxed to get necessary care to those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective October 23, 2020, HHS extended the public health emergency declaration 90 days, but now that extension is set to expire on January 20, 2021.
During this “relaxed” HIPAA law period, it became legal to conduct telehealth sessions using non-compliant telehealth platforms and the need to get a signed BAA was waived. This was a key change in law that was deemed necessary to make it easier for healthcare providers to connect with clients quickly and successfully. Due to the public health emergency order and the need to socially distance to stop the spread of COVID-19, the adoption rate and utilization of telehealth has skyrocketed over the past year.
For behavioral healthcare providers, telehealth has become the lifeline to connect with clients that are increasingly experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental health crises due to the isolation and impacts of COVID-19 in their lives. Even as we move towards a “new normal” where people can connect again in-person, there will still be mental health issues related to the trauma of the pandemic. In addition, both clients and practitioners have become comfortable with and have experienced the benefits of virtual visits, so telehealth delivery is likely here to stay and a necessary tool to support clients in need.
Is your practice prepared to continue its telehealth delivery when HIPAA rules and guidelines are re-instated? Even if the current public health declaration is extended beyond the current January 20, 2021 expiration, it is important to note that HHS has the right to terminate the current public health emergency at any time. Once the HIPAA laws are back in place, you must ensure you are using a HIPAA-compliant telehealth provider with a Business Associates Agreement (BAA) signed.
Good news if you are a VTConnect customer - you are already prepared! VTConnect is a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform and a BAA was executed when you registered. For your reference and records click HERE to view and download the BAA that you have in place with VTConnect.
If you have been relying on off-the-shelf video teleconferencing platforms like FaceTime, Google Hangouts, and Zoom without the proper BAA, now is the time to make the change to a HIPAA compliant telehealth platform. To learn more about VTConnect’s secure, simple, and affordable HIPAA compliant telehealth and get one month free for your practice, click HERE.
HHS Extends COVID-19 Related Public Health Emergency Through January 20, 2021. (2020, October 21). Retrieved from JDSUPRA: https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/hhs-extends-covid-19-related-public-18473/
HIPAA Waivers Expiring October 23 Now Extended to January 20, 2021. (2020, October 22). Retrieved from Abyde: https://abyde.com/hipaa-waivers-extended-to-january-2021/