The COVID-19 pandemic forced physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and others who work within the healthcare profession to change the way they practice medicine. Throughout the pandemic, physicians were looking for a way to help their patients without putting them at unnecessary risk of exposure to the virus. Many were able to put systems into place to move forward with appointments in a virtual setting. Practices throughout the state were using Zoom and other similar services to meet with their patients without needing to have an in-person appointment.
The state and federal government had to issue emergency orders to allow for these types of appointments, as many did not meet requirements set out by current rules and regulations. As things begin to return to normal, these orders are expiring, and regulatory bodies will expect physicians and other medical professionals to return to pre-pandemic operations.
In Texas, for example, the state’s state of emergency order is set to expire on July 31, and with it, so will some rules regarding telemedicine.
Change #1: A phone call is not enough
During the state of emergency order, patients could establish a new relationship with a physician based on a simple phone call. This will no longer be the case. In some cases an audiovisual contact, like a Zoom call, will suffice. In others, an in-person meeting may be required.
Change #2: Increased scrutiny when it comes to controlled substances
This is particularly true when it comes the use of opioids. During the pandemic, the emergency rule relaxed the requirement for an in-person appointment to get a prescription for controlled substances. With the end of the emergency rule, medical professionals should prepare for reinstatement of the in-person appointment requirement. However, there is the possibility that the Texas Medical Board will provide additional telemedicine options for chronic-pain management in the future.
Change #3: Changes in insurance reimbursement rates
The telemedicine emergency rule required insurance companies to pay in-network health professionals the same for telemedicine services as for in-person services. It also stated insurance companies could not require additional documentation for telemedicine services than those required for in-person services. These requirements will also lapse.