HHS: Guidance on How the HIPAA Rules Permit Covered Health Care Providers and Health Plans to Use Remote Communication Technologies for Audio-Only Telehealth
Covered health care providers and health plans (covered entities) can use remote communication technologies to provide audio-only telehealth services when such communications are conducted in a manner that is consistent with the applicable requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules (HIPAA Rules). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) developed this guidance to help covered entities understand how they can use remote communication technologies for audio-only telehealth in compliance with the HIPAA Rules, including when OCR’s Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications (Telehealth Notification) is no longer in effect.
HHS is issuing this guidance on audio-only telehealth in direct response to the Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government (E.O. 14058). This guidance will help ensure that individuals can continue to benefit from audio-only telehealth by clarifying how covered entities can provide telehealth services and improving public confidence that covered entities are protecting the privacy and security of their health information.
In addition, while telehealth can significantly expand access to health care, certain populations may have difficulty accessing or be unable to access technologies used for audio-video telehealth because of various factors, including financial resources, limited English proficiency, disability, internet access, availability of sufficient broadband, and cell coverage in the geographic area. Audio-only telehealth, especially using technologies that do not require broadband availability, can help address the needs of some of these individuals. To support access to such telehealth services, this guidance addresses questions that HHS has received about whether, and in what circumstances, audio-only telehealth is permissible under the HIPAA Rules.