We recently covered how COVID-19 has acted as a catalyst for many much needed changes. The FDA eased federal restrictions which had been stalling the market’s ability to produce tests, enabling companies to produce home testing kits. The Feds, as well as many states, have been waiving or significantly reducing occupational licensure requirements in an effort to have the staff needed to deal with the strain on the healthcare market with the cases of coronavirus continuing to climb. We have seen, as a result of the pandemic, numerous technology companies step up to fill the various gaps created in the market.
Earlier this week, Governor Herbert followed this trend by issuing an executive order that suspended sections of state statute that make it difficult for healthcare providers to provide telehealth care to their patients. This executive order allows medical providers to offer a telehealth service that does not comply with the security and privacy standards required by law. However, the medical provider has to inform the patient about the lack of compliance, allow them to decline it if they wish, and the medical provider should take reasonable steps to ensure that their non-compliant service is secure and private. This follows a similar executive order that was issued in Tennessee, also aiming to free up telehealth from existing regulations.
Telehealth is the use of electronic information and technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies often associated with telehealth include videoconferencing, the internet, images, streaming media, and communications over the phone.
Executive orders such as these are extremely helpful in an effort to reduce the strain on the medical system as a result from the rise in cases. Coronavirus has presented unique challenges for people, as they are recommended to practice social distancing in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. However, people still need to be able to have access to medical support, and telehealth services offer a first step for people to explore before having to leave their home. Telehealth empowers the medical system to focus their attention on taking care of their in-house patients who need it most, while simultaneously not neglecting people who are in need of medical advice.
The executive order also acts as a miniature regulatory sandbox of sorts. The deregulatory effort can empower medical providers to service more people effectively without compromising quality. In doing so, it offers an opportunity for the state and stakeholders to see what regulations currently on the books may be unnecessary, and adjust the law accordingly in the future to ensure that as many Utahns get access to health services as efficiently as possible.