Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, has issued an Executive Order (N-16-21) that allows physicians to provide routine and non-emergency telehealth services without the worry of being sanctioned for inadvertently releasing patient data. This Order extends a similar one that was put in place in April of 2020 during the peak of the pandemic. It was designed to help clinicians extend their telehealth services, allowing patients to receive care with less risk of COVID-19 transmission. This Order gives healthcare providers protection from HIPAA violations for offering telehealth services in good faith.
The original order for the use of telehealth was set to expire on September 30th. However, the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has now issued a Notice of Enforcement Discretion so that the measures can remain in place until the end of the public health emergency (PHE). This Notice also protects providers from HIPAA penalties, as long as any lapses occur during the good faith provision of telehealth during the PHE. This new order aligns with federal efforts to encourage telehealth use during the pandemic.
California Governor Gavin Newsom is also allowing a certain portion of the original emergency order to expire. Starting in October, medical providers must get verbal or written consent from patients before utilizing telehealth services. During the pandemic, many states changed their telehealth regulations to improve access and coverage, while the federal government also took similar steps. However, some states have since allowed these measures to expire, while others have extended them until the end of the public health emergency (PHE) or have amended their rules to make them permanent.
Overall, the new Executive Order (N-16-21) issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom is a positive step forward in encouraging the use of telehealth services during the pandemic. The Order provides healthcare providers with protection from HIPAA violations, while also allowing patients to receive care with less risk of COVID-19 transmission. The Notice of Enforcement Discretion from the OCR will extend this protection until the end of the public health emergency, allowing clinicians to continue to provide safe and secure care to their patients.