Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Maryland Legislature responded to the public health crisis by enacting emergency measures for telehealth access and coverage. Lawmakers soon recognized the positive and safe acceptance of these measures, and are permanently expanding the definition of telehealth along with the coverage and reimbursement requirements.
One measure — the Preserve Telehealth Access Act of 2021 — was recently signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan. The Act does several important things. It continues coverage for audio-only telemedicine services, such as phone calls. It removes originating and distant site restrictions on telehealth. And it expands remote patient monitoring programs. Its enactment further signals the turning tide in Maryland toward a proliferation of remote healthcare options, allowing for increased access to healthcare and promoting health equity.
We see this as a benefit for the healthcare industry. Providers can utilize telehealth to improve quality healthcare, enhance patient engagement, expand patient access, increase clinical workflow efficiency and practice revenues, and improve patient satisfaction.
There are unique challenges and risks associated with telehealth, however. The practice can be an Achilles heel for unwary providers, exposing them to potential data breaches, diagnostic errors, informed consent issues, and a lack of policies and protocols to address this evolving arena of healthcare. Providers must be vigilant and ensure provision of virtual healthcare that complies with state and federal laws.
As healthcare providers become more telehealth savvy and equipped to mitigate risks, we believe permanently extending telehealth measures in Maryland is beneficial for providers and patients.
If you have any questions about the new law, telehealth or how to mitigate risks, give us a call. We are here to help!
For further reading regarding the telehealth topic, check out John T. Sly’s W&B COVID-19 Update: Beware of the Potential Pitfalls of Asynchronous Telehealth.