COVID-19: News You Can Use March 23, 2020

AMA Telehealth Enforcement Advisory

Earlier today, the American Medical Association issued the following advisory:

Early last week, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) notified covered entities, including physicians, that it would exercise enforcement discretion for physicians using telehealth. OCR has issued new FAQs on this notice, which we wanted to bring to your attention. Additionally, SAMHSA has issued an FAQ on 42 CFR Part 2, seeking to ensure that substance use disorder treatment services are uninterrupted during this public health emergency.

Physicians may seek to communicate with patients and provide telehealth services through remote communications technologies. Some of these technologies, and their use, may not fully comply with the requirements of the HIPAA Rules. 

However, today’s announcement means that physicians who want to use audio or video communication technology to provide telehealth to patients during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency can use any non-public facing service that is available to communicate with patients. This exercise of discretion applies to telehealth provided for any reason, regardless of whether the telehealth service is related to the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions related to COVID-19.

For example, a physician using their professional judgement may request to examine a patient exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, using a video chat application connecting the physician’s or patient’s phone or desktop computer in order to assess a greater number of patients while limiting the risk of infection of other persons who would be exposed from an in-person consultation. Likewise, a physician may provide similar telehealth services in the exercise of their professional judgment to assess or treat any other medical condition, even if not related to COVID-19, such as a sprained ankle, dental consultation or psychological evaluation, or other conditions. 

Under this Notice, physicians may use popular applications that allow for video chats, including Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, or Skype to provide telehealth without risk that OCR might seek to impose a penalty for noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules. Physicians should not use Facebook Live, Twitch, TikTok or other public facing communication services. Physicians are encouraged, but not required, to notify patients of the potential security risks of using these services and to seek additional privacy protections by entering into HIPAA business associate agreements (BAA). HHS also noted that while it hasn’t confirmed such statements, Skype for Business, Updox, VSee, Zoom for Healthcare,, and Google G Suite Hangouts have said that their products will help physicians comply with HIPAA and that they will enter into a HIPAA BAA.

Additional information can be found at this notice from Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).  For additional information, register here for Thursday’s Implementing Tele-Ophthalmology During COVID-19 Pandemic Webinar hosted by ASCRS.

Register for the March 25th Complimentary Webinar on Neurotrophic Keratitis and Managing Ocular Manifestations of COVID-19

This webinar will use an interactive case-based approach to present various clinical presentations of Neurotrophic Keratitis, review risk factors for Neurotrophic Keratitis, and discuss how to diagnose and review updated management protocols. 

Manifestations of COVID-19 in the ophthalmic practice, the latest guidelines for ophthalmologists, and treatment drugs under investigation will also be discussed.

Sponsored by the Cornea Clinical Committee, please join moderator Marjan Farid, MD, panelists Kenneth Beckman, MD, and Karolinne Rocha, MD, as well as facilitator, Francis Mah, MD, for a lively presentation and discussion.

Register Here

Please use discount code J1482 when registering!

ASCRS Hosts Implementing Tele-Ophthalmology During COVID-19 Pandemic Webinar Thursday

On Thursday, March 26, at 3:00 p.m. ET, join ASCRS for the webinar, “Implementing Tele-Ophthalmology During COVID-19 Pandemic.” Recent government action has expanded telehealth coverage for Medicare beneficiaries nationwide, temporarily waiving penalties for HIPAA violations, and will reimburse physicians for telehealth services at the same rate for face-to-face services. ASCRS recognizes that our members need resources on how to implement telemedicine visits for their patients. Ranya Habash, MD, Medical Director of Technology Innovation and Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, will provide an overview of tele-ophthalmology, sharing various use cases, practice workflows, and updates to Medicare guidelines and reimbursement during the COVID-19 outbreak. She will also share telehealth best practices used at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute during this critical time. Stephen D. Klyce, PhD, FARVO, Adjunct Professor of Ophthalmology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, chair of the ASCRS ASOA Telemedicine Task Force and ASCRS FDA Committee member will moderate the webinar. Following the presentation, audience members may participate in the Q&A session.

This webinar is free to all ASCRS and ASOA members. Register here. If you have questions regarding registration, please contact Jillian Winans at

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