Governor Gavin Newsom of California has renewed an Executive Order that allows physicians to provide normal and non-emergency telehealth services without fear of being fined for inadvertently disclosing patient information. A requirement that providers seek verbal or written agreement for the use of telehealth before it is employed had been waived by the governor. Beginning in October, California clinicians will be required to get written or verbal patient consent once again.
- Extension: California Governor Gavin Newsom has extended an emergency order enacted in 2020 that protects physicians from HIPAA penalties should they accidentally expose patient data during the good faith provision of telehealth.
- Exemption: Executive Order N-16-21 extends an order issued in April 2020, at the height of the epidemic, that granted providers some exemption from HIPAA violations “when providing telemedicine in good faith.” It was created to assist providers in expanding their telehealth services in order to eliminate in-person care and let patients receive care with a lower chance of contracting COVID-19.
- Attempts: It also coincides with federal attempts to promote the use of telehealth during the pandemic. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health and Human Services has issued a Notice of Enforcement Discretion, which will remain in effect until the end of the PHE, indicating that it will not impose HIPAA penalties on providers as long as any lapses occur while providing telehealth in good faith.
- Modifications: Nearly every state modified its telehealth guidelines during the pandemic to boost coverage and access – as did the federal government. Since then, states have let those measures expire, extended them until the end of the federal PHE or to another date, or amended their rules to make those measures permanent.
- Measures: The original order was set to expire on September 30; the new order keeps these measures in place through the end of the public health emergency. Newsom’s order this week did allow one specific section of the original emergency order to lapse.