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Integrating telehealth into compliance programs: Best practices for compliance professionals

Nick Merkin (nmerkin@compliagent.com) is CEO and Erin MacLean (emaclean@fandmpc.com, emaclean@compliagent.com) is Regional Compliance Director at Compliagent, located in Los Angeles, CA, as well as Attorney/Managing Shareholder at Freeman & MacLean PC, located in Helena, MT.

Even before many Americans were affected by the novel coronavirus and the resulting stay-at-home orders, school closures, and business shutdowns, telehealth was one of the fastest-growing segments of healthcare. Telehealth, a broadly defined term, includes the remote delivery of care by medical professionals, along with an array of services and technologies, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and other interactive platforms.[1] Telehealth’s potential to expand access to care at reduced cost while maintaining high standards of quality is well suited for today’s value-based care models. Additionally, as a solution to overcrowded emergency rooms and expensive clinic space, many healthcare providers and patients can benefit from diagnostic modalities via remote platforms and technology-driven long-distance treatment options.

The COVID-19 crisis has created a more acute need for telehealth options where an in-person provider-patient encounter is impossible because of quarantine orders, childcare challenges, or transit restrictions. Indeed, the financial viability of many healthcare providers is now jeopardized because much necessary—but nonemergency—medical care has been postponed for lack of a safe way for providers to deliver needed services. Here, we identify several issues that compliance professionals should carefully consider when developing policies around a telehealth delivery system, as well as provide best practice considerations for maintaining a compliance program infrastructure.

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