With the widespread COVID-19 pandemic this month, many offices are turning to telehealth as a way to provide patient care face-to-face, while still maintaining safe distances and quarantine precautions. For more information about COVID-19, please visit the CDC and WHO websites. The national audiology associations also have a variety of information to assist members at this time.
The Maryland Audiology Regulations, Chapter 6 addresses “Telehealth Communications.” Telehealth is defined as “the use of telecommunications and information technologies for the exchange of information from one site to another for the provision of audiology, hearing aid dispensing, or speech-language pathology services to an individual from a provider through hardwire or internet connection.” Audiologists, hearing aid dispensers, and speech language pathologists may provide telehealth services as a “provider.” The location “site” is the location of the patient when telehealth services are provided. You must be licensed in the state the patient is located to legally provide services. [For example, if you are licensed in Maryland and a patient is located in Maryland at the time of services, telehealth can be provided. If you are licensed in Maryland and the patient is located in Washington, DC. at the time of services, you CANNOT legally provide telehealth, unless you are licensed in DC.] The ethical requirements and scope of practice are consistent for telehealth services as in-office services.
Telehealth services need to be provided by HIPAA complaint systems and providers need to have proper procedures and policies in place for use of telehealth technology. Common face-to-face software (e.g. FaceTime, Zoom, Skype) is NOT HIPAA complaint without a Business account and/or fully executed Business Associate Agreement (BAA). Practices and individuals providers should ensure that business and individual malpractice insurance covers telehealth services, prior to use. Patients also need to be aware that the provider can only ensure security of the internet and devices on the provider’s side and the patient has a responsibility for their privacy and security as well.