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.
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.
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
- Treatment of patient under hospice care
- Treatment of nursing home resident
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.
What Do I Need to Register as an Out-of-State Telehealth Provider?
Any health care provider seeking to register to practice telehealth medicine and/or clinical care in a state other than where they currently reside must have an active, unencumbered license issued by another state, the District of Columbia or a territory of the United States.
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.
What Is the Process to Become an Out-of-State Telehealth Provider?
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 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 health care 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 determining whether to practice telehealth services in more than one out-of-state location.
This process can get convoluted quickly thereby making it a rather time-consuming venture. Hiring the telehealth licensing professionals at Medical License Pro to handle the paperwork for you, can eliminate the guesswork and free you up to focus on your patients.