HIPAA and Teletherapy Updates


HHS Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for enforcing certain regulations issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, to protect the privacy and security of protected health information, namely the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules (the HIPAA Rules). 

During the COVID-19 national emergency, which also constitutes a nationwide public health emergency, covered health care providers subject to the HIPAA Rules may seek to communicate with patients, and provide telehealth services, through remote communications technologies. Some of these technologies, and the manner in which they are used by HIPAA covered health care providers, may not fully comply with the requirements of the HIPAA Rules. 

OCR will exercise its enforcement discretion and will not impose penalties for noncompliance with the regulatory requirements under the HIPAA Rules against covered health care providers in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. This notification is effective immediately. 

Read the full notification here.

Clarification on Informed Consent for HIPAA Telehealth

TAMFT recently received clarification on informed consent for those practicing telehealth from BHEC Interim Director Darrel Spinks: An acceptable workaround for securing written informed consent for new clients who do not have access to a computer and cannot physically come into the clinic due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the LMFT/LMFT-A could simply cover the required informed consent components over the phone with the client. The client can then simply text or email their assent from his or her phone. The text or email could then be printed out (or photocopied if in text format) by the provider and included in the file. When including such a printout or copy in the patient file, the provider should notate on the copy a brief statement that the assent relates to the required informed consent, and then sign or initial and date the document.

Questions about teletherapy during COVID-19? Contact us and we'll help you find clarification!

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