Florida Telehealth Providers: Frequently Asked Questions

 

Florida Telehealth Providers: Frequently Asked Questions 

 Over the last decade, healthcare professionals and physicians have begun implementing telehealth to treat patients at a distance using telecommunications technology.

This new approach is becoming an increasingly important part of the American healthcare infrastructure, especially right now during the Coronavirus pandemic, as telehealth can give patients the safety and convenience of virtual doctor visits, a boost in their care outcomes, and many other added benefits.

The word “Telehealth” refers to the distribution of health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies. It allows long-distance patient and clinician contact, care, advice, reminders, education, intervention, monitoring, and remote admissions.

What is Telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the remote or long-distance practice of medicine using technology to deliver clinical health care services. Health care professionals use telecommunications technologies, including video conferencing and the like, to deliver patient care to home-bound or out-of-area patients.

How Does Telemedicine Differ from Telehealth?

The scope of telehealth is much broader than that of telemedicine. Telehealth uses electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support the practice of long-distance or remote health care services, including telemedicine. Telehealth services can include non-clinical services in addition to clinical health care (i.e. telemedicine), such as patient education and information sharing, professional training and continuing medical education, and public health administration.

Who Practices Telehealth?

Telehealth providers can include physicians, psychologists and mental health counselors, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, behavior analysts, certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, pharmacists, dentists, physical therapists, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, midwives, massage therapists, athletic trainers, dieticians, etc.

Telehealth providers can only provide patient care within the scope of their profession. You can find more information about the scope and standards of care for your specific profession here: http://www.flhealthsource.gov/. Click on the link in the blue banner labeled “Florida Boards.”

What Are the Benefits of Telehealth?

Telehealth can have benefits for both health care providers and their patients. Most importantly, by providing remote options, telehealth providers can expand their patient reach and patients have greater access to health care. Additionally, patients are more likely to follow-up with their medical caregivers and health care providers have remote monitoring opportunities to assist their patients with more effective self-care leading to better overall health outcomes. It’s a win-win for all of those involved.

Other telehealth benefits include:

  • Increased workflow efficiency
  • Increased workplace revenues
  • Reduced overhead costs
  • Reduced patient costs
  • Increased access to specialists
  • Improved health care quality
  • Reduced no-shows and cancellations
  • Improved patient satisfaction and follow-up

How Do Telehealth Providers Handle Patient Evaluations and Medical Records?

Patient evaluations can be conducted via telehealth practices. If the evaluation itself is sufficient to make an accurate diagnosis and treat the patient remotely, the telehealth provider is not obligated to arrange for additional medical history research or physical examination of the patient.

All patient medical records acquired through telehealth services are confidential and must be maintained in accordance with the same standard of maintenance required for in-person care of patient medical records per Florida Statutes, ss. 395.3025 (4).

Can Telehealth Providers Prescribe Controlled Substances?

Certain circumstances allow for telehealth providers to prescribe a controlled substance via telehealth services. Such circumstances can include:

  • Treatment of a psychiatric disorder
  • Impatient treatment at a hospital licensed under Florida Statutes, Chapter 395
  • Treatment of patients under hospice care as defined in Florida Statutes, s. 400.601
  • Treatment of nursing home residents as defined in Florida Statutes, s. 400.021

Generally, a prescription for a controlled substance issued via telehealth services must be predicated on an in-person medical evaluation, according to the Diversion Control Division of the US Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Some exceptions do exist to this rule, though, by way of the Controlled Substances Act.

One recent example involved an exception made when the Secretary of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency under Section 319 of the Public Health Service Act during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to social distancing, this exception eliminated the need for health care providers to meet with the patient in-person at least once before prescribing a controlled substance and allowed for the initial meeting to now take place via telehealth services.

H2: What Do I Need to Register as an Out-of-State Telehealth Provider in Florida?

Any health care provider seeking to register to practice telehealth medicine and/or clinical care in the State of Florida must have an active, unencumbered license issued by another state, the District of Columbia or a territory of the United States. Qualifications for an out-of-state telehealth provider registration number are governed by Florida Statutes, s. 456.47 (1) (b), and the fulfillment of certain other requirements.

Providers with provisional licenses would not qualify to register as an out-of-state telehealth provider since such licenses are not unencumbered, meaning they come with certain obligations like mandatory supervision requirements.

Florida health care practitioners can already provide telehealth services in Florida. Therefore, if you are licensed in Florida, you are unable to receive a telehealth provider registration in the same state in which you are currently able to practice health care services in person. If you, as a Florida licensee, want to provide telehealth care to a patient outside of Florida, you will need to meet the rules and requirements of the state wherein your patient resides.

What Is the Process to Become an Out-of-State Telehealth Provider in Florida?

In addition to holding the appropriate unencumbered out-of-state health care license or certification, practitioners seeking to be an out-of-state telehealth provider in Florida must submit an Application for Out-of-State Telehealth Provider Registration.

The application process involves verifying licensure. Any pending investigation, disciplinary action or revocation of licensing that might have taken place within the last five years can disqualify a healthcare professional from receiving authorization to practice as a telehealth provider.

Other requirements, such as designating a registered agent, maintaining liability coverage, and following certain pharmaceutical restrictions, must be met in order to obtain an out-of-state telehealth provider registration number.

Each state might have additional requirements. It might also be necessary to register in multiple states if you are determined to practice telehealth services in more than one out-of-state location. The fulfillment of these rules and regulations would only apply to your ability to get registered and provide telehealth services to patients in Florida.

What Is a Florida Registered Agent and Why Do I Need One?

A registered agent (RA) is an individual or business entity designated to receive service of process if a legal action were to be filed against you. RA’s also receive other important documents, such as tax documents or correspondence from the Florida Department of Health. They are responsible for making sure your “affairs are in order” so-to-speak as far as important paperwork and business/professional matters go.

This person or designee may or may not have an official role within your practice. But it is important to make sure you pick the right RA for you. If you do not choose to select someone you know, you can search online for an RA in Florida. You must choose an RA listed with an “active” status under the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations.

What Do I Need to Register as an Out-of-State Telehealth Provider in Florida?

A registered agent (RA) is an individual or business entity designated to receive service of process if a legal action were to be filed against you. RA’s also receive other important documents, such as tax documents or correspondence from the Florida Department of Health. They are responsible for making sure your “affairs are in order” so-to-speak as far as important paperwork and business/professional matters go.

This person or designee may or may not have an official role within your practice. But it is important to make sure you pick the right RA for you. If you do not choose to select someone you know, you can search online for an RA in Florida. You must choose an RA listed with an “active” status under the Florida Department of State, Division of Corporations.

What are the Exemptions from Registering as a Florida Telehealth provider?

Two exemptions exist that allow for a health care provider with an out-of-state license to perform telehealth services for Florida patients without registering.

The first exemption is in response to an emergency medical condition. To qualify as such, the medical emergency must be an acute medical condition presenting with symptoms of “sufficient severity,” which can include pain, that without immediate medical intervention is reasonably likely to result in:

  • Serious jeopardy to patient health (including a fetus)
  • Serious impairment to bodily functions
  • Serious dysfunction of a body part or organ

The second exemption involves the care of a pregnant woman, such that treatment might be necessary if:

  • There is not enough time to provide for safe transfer to another hospital prior to delivery
  • A transfer might threaten the health and safety of the woman or her unborn baby
  • There is evidence of the onset and continuance of active labor (i.e. persistent uterine contractions or membrane rupture)

What Do I Need to Start Practicing as a Florida Telehealth Provider?

After completing the application and satisfying the registration requirements, if approved, you will receive an approval letter that includes your telehealth provider registration number. This registration number, along with your telehealth provider information, will also be posted on http://www.flhealthsource.gov/telehealth/.

You will not receive a separate license for your registration. The approval letter will serve as proof of your registration.

Once Registered, How Do I Keep My Florida Telehealth Registration Active?

Regular audits will be conducted to ensure out-of-state licenses used to register as a telehealth provider are renewed and remain unencumbered. Additionally, the following criteria must be met:

  • If you have a website, it must include a visible link to: http://www.flhealthsource.gov/telehealth/
  • You must maintain liability coverage consistent with requirements for financial responsibility
    for Florida health care practitioners
  • You cannot open an office in Florida or provide in-person health care services to patients in the state
  • You must notify the department within five business days of any changes being initiated to your licensing status including any restrictions placed on any health care license you hold in any state or jurisdiction as well as any disciplinary action taken or pending against the same

Is There Someone Who Can Help Me Register as a Florida Telehealth Provider?

Getting registered as an out-of-state telehealth provider can be a somewhat complicated and rather time-consuming venture. Hiring a professional company like Medical License Pro to handle the paperwork for you can eliminate the guesswork and free you up to focus on your patients.

All we ask from you is that you complete our simple online form that will provide us with all the information we need to get you registered as an out-of-state telehealth provider. All information is kept strictly confidential.

There is a one-time flat fee to use our services. We do not bill for our time because we hope to make you a lifelong client by providing exceptional service for an affordable price.

Your time is valuable. So, our goal is to make this process as fast and easy as possible with very little legwork for you. Contact us today to get started.

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