COVID-19 Search Engine Inspired Q&A

As you can imagine, with all our COVID-19 coverage, we’re getting thousands of people searching something on a search engine and discovering the site.  In those searches are a lot of interesting questions that people are obviously trying to find the answers to in this crazy new pandemic world we live in.

I hadn’t done this for a few years, so I thought it would be fun to highlight some of the searches that people were doing and answer them for people or at least highlight what I think they’re trying to find when searching for those keywords.  Of course, if you have other comments beyond what we share or other questions, please share them in the comments.

“HIPAA Suspended” (and related “HIPPA suspended” – sometimes it pays to misspell something)

Is HIPAA suspended?  No it is not.  HIPAA is still in place and if you’re a healthcare organization or other covered entity like an insurance company, then you are still subject to HIPAA.  That said, OCR, who enforces HIPAA, has offered a number of COVID-19 HIPAA Enforcement Discretions.  That means that these are still a HIPAA violation, but OCR has suspended punishing violators of these very specific areas.

What areas are these?  The biggest enforcement discretion was around HIPAA and Telehealth.  You can read the details, but it basically allowed telehealth to be done on most video chat that was non-public facing.  Another suspension of HIPAA enforcement was for HIPAA business associates (ie. EHR vendors and other health IT companies) to share data with public health organizations.  Then, OCR also offered HIPAA enforcement discretion for Community Based Testing Sites (CBTS).

So, HIPAA wasn’t full suspended.  It’s still a requirement.  However, they won’t be penalizing covered entities for some very specific areas of HIPAA.

Will these last after COVID-19?  My prediction is that they won’t and we’ll roll back to the original HIPAA requirements, but some argue that the telehealth HIPAA leniency will remain.

“cms telehealth across state lines”

Can a physician or other clinician practice across state lines?  This is a question that surprises many that aren’t in healthcare.  However, the reality is that each state has their own medical board and so a doctor has to be licensed in each state to practice.  At least that was the case before COVID-19 which led many telehealth companies to pay for doctors to be licensed in every state (what a waste!).

Since COVID-19, Medicare and Medicaid now allow doctors to practice across state lines.  The only problem was that doctors still had to receive a waiver from the state in order to practice across state lines.  The Federation of State Medical Boards have been tracking these state by state waivers and at least as of April 10, 2020, 43 states have waivers and 8 don’t have waivers.  Although, the devil is in the details, so be sure to check out your state since they’re not all universal waivers.

“hipaa covid 19 and zoom” and “is zoom hipaa compliant telehealth”

I assume these searches are asking if Zoom is HIPAA compliant.  Turns out that Zoom has had a version of their software designed for healthcare for a while now and they’re willing to sign a BAA for HIPAA compliance.  Zoom has been in the news for some security challenges lately which they’ve largely responded to, but they shouldn’t impact you if you’re using the healthcare version of Zoom.  If you use the consumer version of Zoom, that might fall under the HIPAA Telehealth enforcement discretion depending on how it’s used.  So, I’d be a little careful with that and consult an expert if you want to use it that way.

“cares act 2020 healthcare”

When the government is spending a few trillion dollars, it’s no surprise that people want to know what kind of money is available in the CARES Act for healthcare.  We’ve also highlighted the $200 million COVID-19 Telehealth program from the FCC which just started accepting applications and many healthcare organizations can benefit from participating.  Not to mention the $100 billion fund for providers and the Medicare Accelerated Payments.

Many health IT companies and smaller healthcare organizations could benefit from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Emergency Advance (EIDL) payments as well.

“is facetime hipaa compliant for telehealth”

HIPAA compliance has always been a bad term since there’s no one who really verifies and gives out compliance certificates.  However, with the Telehealth HIPAA enforcement discretion, you can now do Facetime and not worry about OCR coming after you with a HIPAA violation and fine.  I’ve heard of it being used to connect a patient who is about to go on a vent to their family so they could talk before it happened.  I think cases like this are exactly why they issued the enforcement discretion.

“does medicare cover telehealth visits during covid-19”

The devil is always in the details, but the short answer to this is yes.  COVID-19 has opened the doors to telehealth for Medicare patients and many insurance companies are following suit.  Medicare originally announced telehealth coverage on March 17, 2020 and they’ve since announced even more expansive coverage.  Plus, they also offered payment parity for telehealth video visits.

There are a few hundred more of these that we could do.  If you liked this style of article, let us know and we’ll do more in the future.  These were just a few of the top searches that people were doing.  I shouldn’t be surprised that they’re related to some of the biggest announcements we’ve had during COVID-19.

Let us know if you have any other questions or additional feedback on the above either in the comments or on our contact us page.  We’re always doing our best to make sure you’re getting the information you need.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

   

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