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Telemedicine and the coronavirus crisis: Key legal issues for providers to consider

Robin M. Singh (robin@whitecollar.org) is Group Senior Regulatory Affairs and Risk Management at Abu Dhabi Government - Healthcare Sector, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has affected all areas of life and healthcare delivery.

While healthcare organizations and governments are working to contain the spread, the focus is on minimizing exposure to the virus with state- and nationwide lockdowns. With increased restrictions on movement, healthcare providers are considering the implementation of telemedicine platforms. These systems are ideally suited for coordinating care for potentially infected patients, or those with possible exposure to COVID-19, while minimizing exposure.

While the federal government has encouraged doctors to consult seniors with Medicare through Skype or FaceTime,[1] “[h]ospitals are setting up chatbots, symptom checkers and telemedicine tools virtually overnight.”[2] These technologies are helping providers triage patients while ensuring minimal exposure for everyone. Some providers have almost entirely transitioned to virtual consults, with many offering training sessions on telemedicine for those who have not integrated the technology into their practice.

Federal and state regulations have recently been changed to encourage greater adoption of telemedicine services.[3]

While hospitals are increasingly looking at implementing new telemedicine systems,[4] they must evaluate and comply with many regulatory, legal, and contracting standards.

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