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    April 2020

    Expanding Telemedicine During the COVID-19 Pandemic

    As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic forces colleges and universities to limit or close on-campus operations and move instruction online, many institutions remain committed to providing student services ─ including those supporting student health and well-being. In these unprecedented times, many institutions have embraced or expanded telehealth offerings.

    What is Telehealth?

    Telehealth is the practice of engaging in patient care where the provider and patient are not physically together, often through videoconference. Patient care sessions by health care providers subject to HIPAA must be conducted using HIPAA-secure and compliant technology. Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services relaxed regulations relating to security to allow more flexibility in connecting patients and providers. 

    Considerations when Using Telehealth

    Some institutions already engage in telemedicine or tele-mental health counseling. Whether this is the right approach for your institution during this pandemic is a decision only your institution can make. If your institution continues offering services through telehealth, keep these practices in mind:

    • Consult with legal counsel. Understand your institution’s legal requirements and any legal risks associated with practicing telemedicine. Consider updating disclaimers and informed consent documentation. 
    • Follow recommended best practices, including those from state medical boards. Review resources related to use of telehealth, including providing counseling services remotely.
    • Follow state licensing requirements. Providers must carry a valid license to provide services. State licensing requirements are relaxed in many places and are evolving as the crisis continues. Stay in compliance with licensing requirements for practicing across state lines. Provide notice to your students of any limitations. 
    • Consult with your practitioners’ malpractice insurance carrier. Understand whether the carriers cover telemedicine or tele-mental health counseling, especially if that practice now occurs across state lines.
    • Use HIPAA-secure technology. In addition to complying with the law, use of secure technology can ensure privacy of student information. 

    Providing continuity of care may help students feel more connected and secure during this difficult time. Understand the risks and take steps to mitigate them until your institution is able to return to its regular practice. 

    More From UE

    Coronavirus FAQs: What Educational Institutions Need to Know
    Sharing Campus Resources During the COVID-19 Pandemic
    Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak

    Additional Resources

    American College Health Association: COVID-19 Resources
    American Psychiatry Association: Telehealth Guide
    Higher Education Mental Health Alliance (HEMHA): Counseling at a Distance Guide
    HEMHA: COVID-19 Resource List
    JED Foundation: COVID-19 Tips and Resources
    American School Counselor Association: COVID-19 Resources American School Counselor Association: Planning for Virtual Counseling
    American Medical Association: Guide to Telemedicine Practice
    Federation of State Medical Boards: COVID-19 Resources 
    American Academy of Family Physicians: Coronavirus Telehealth Facts
    Health and Human Services: Telehealth FAQs 

    By Heather Salko, senior risk management counsel


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