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Telehealth and HIPAA compliance during the pandemic and beyond

Lakshmi Nathan (lakshmi.nathan@kp.org) is Senior Compliance Program Manager at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, CA.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on our lives. Zoom meetings, online classes, cancelled vacations, and virtual get-togethers have become the new normal. The pandemic has been a big challenge for the healthcare industry, too. During the early months of the pandemic, in-person visits to ambulatory practices decreased by nearly 60%.[1] Hospitals and providers were also forced to innovate rapidly to handle various challenges, from facing a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) to dealing with the surge of COVID-19 patients. To address these challenges, hospitals and providers adopted new technologies in a matter of weeks, something that usually took several years in the past. Social distancing and shelter-at-home policies forced providers to use telehealth as the primary mode of interaction with patients. Patients embraced telehealth services, too, because it provided a safer alternative to in-person visits.

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