The COVID-19 pandemic has presented hospitals and health care facilities with challenges that go beyond providing comprehensive care to patients suffering from the virus. One of the most common challenges is how to handle patient visitors. Denying or limiting visitors could be seen as a violation of patient rights, and denying access to a visit by clergy could rise to the level of religious discrimination. After receiving a number of complaints in this regard, the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) recently provided some technical assistance to two hospitals that faced this issue.
In the first case, a COVID-positive patient in a Maryland hospital was separated from her newborn son. Shaken by the separation, the patient requested that a priest be permitted to visit the baby, so he could baptize the child. But the hospital had instituted a ban on all hospital visitation in response to the pandemic, so the request was denied.
Can an employer require employees to be vaccinated against influenza? And, a COVID-19 vaccine likely will be approved in the not-to-distant future. What about that vaccine when it becomes available? These are questions with which many organizations are grappling today. With the confluence of what is expected to be a very active influenza season and the ongoing and unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, employers are contemplating how best to protect their workforce and clients/customers/patients.
One of the most effective ways to achieve this is a mandatory vaccine policy, but is that right for your organization? Mandatory vaccination programs are not new. Depending on your business, a mandatory vaccine policy may be the industry norm. What factors should you consider? What processes would you need to develop to address exceptions?
CAN YOUR BUSINESS MANDATE VACCINATIONS?
In general the answer is yes. Although federal and state laws may vary, such programs are permissible provided any mandatory vaccination policy incorporates processes to address the required exceptions: medical accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); and religious accommodations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).
What options do doctors have in determining if a patient has the flu or COVID-19?
The days of assuming a sniffle and low fever during the Fall are just signs of the common flu are long gone. The challenge doctors now face is determining whether a cough, temperature and sore throat is the flu or COVID-19. If the symptoms are essentially the same for both illnesses, what’s a doctor to do? In the old days before Fall of 2019, a doctor would order a lab test to see if the patient tested positive for the flu. Today, a doctor who is faced (in person or virtually) with a patient with fever, chills, cough, runny nose, headaches and fatigue now must know if it is the seasonal flu or COVID-19. Ordering a COVID-19 test may seem like the obvious choice, but a more efficient alternative exists. Instead of a standalone COVID-19 test, ordering a comprehensive respiratory pathogen panel is a better decision.
There are numerous COVID-19 grants available from the United States Government, spanning the addiction treatment industry to assisted living, hospitals and providers. There’s money for workplace modernization and for telehealth funding. But how does one keep it all straight and avoid missing out? Join Florida Healthcare Law Firm Attorney Steven Boyne for this informative webinar designed to share an overview and strategy for determining how best your healthcare business can be supported during this unprecedented public health emergency.
The COVID-19 virus has and will probably continue to change the way healthcare providers and business associates interact and help their patients. As many providers are aware, a HIPAA violation is a serious issue, and can cost a healthcare entity large amounts of time and money to respond to any regulatory investigation. Recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has strained every corner of the economy and is THE MOST IMPORTANT issue for almost every industry, the federal government has rolled back some HIPAA protections. It is unclear how long these rollbacks will last, and it is possible that some of them may be permanent, but for now healthcare providers and their business associates can take some comfort that they can focus on delivering care and not dealing with overly burdensome regulations and investigations. The major changes include:
Telehealth. Changes include allowing physicians and other healthcare providers to offer telehealth services across State lines, so State licensing issues should not be a concern. Additionally, Providers are essentially free to choose almost any app to interact with their patients, even if it does not fully comply with the HIPAA rules. The HHS allows the provider to use their business judgment, but of course, such communications should NOT be public facing – which means DO NOT allow the public to watch or participate in the visit!
Disclosures of Protected Health Information (PHI). A good faith disclosure of such information will not be prosecuted. Examples include allowing a provider or business associate to share PHI for such purposes as controlling the spread of COVID-19, providing COVID-19 care, and even notifying the media, even if the patient has not, or will not grant his or her permission.
Business Associate Agreement (BAA). As most healthcare providers know, a BAA agreement between a provider and an entity that may have access to PHI is required by law. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of a BAA is not an automatic violation.
There are 116 specific COVID-19 grants available from the United States Government, spanning the addiction treatment industry to assisted living, hospitals and providers. There’s money for workplace modernization and for telehealth funding. But how does one keep it all straight and avoid missing out? Join Florida Healthcare Law Firm Attorney Steven Boyne for this informative webinar designed to share an overview and strategy for determining how best your healthcare business can be supported during this unprecedented public health emergency.
Florida Healthcare Law Firm Attorney Chase Howard will cover the top 10 questions healthcare providers and businesses are asking related to COVID-19. He will provider solutions and strategies to implement to help you through this pandemic and be better prepared for the new normal of the future. Submit your questions in advance!
As employers begin to consider opening their offices and bringing back their employees and inviting other people into their offices, such as patients, there are many issues that should be considered and planned for BEFORE the front door is opened.
Quick Legal Advice – COVID-19 is new to everyone, including Government regulators and plaintiff lawyers, so we are all learning as we go along. The best legal advice in these uncertain times is:
Find out what other similar situated companies are doing, as you may be held to their standards;
Find checklists and advice from well reputable entities;
Document your decisions; and
OPENING YOUR DOOR TO YOUR EMPLOYEES
As an employer you have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment, and as of today it is clear that the following is a minimal list of considerations:
In my last post, I promised to keep you updated as to any new orders from the State Surgeon General that would further extend a practitioner’s ability to prescribe refills of non-malignant pain controlled substances using telehealth communications, or a qualified physician’s ability to recertify an existing qualified patient’s use of medical marijuana. The Surgeon General has extended the ability to continue assisting patients with these specific needs (as well as other needs) until May 31, 2020, through the issuance of Emergency Order 20-007 on May 9, 2020.
Keep in mind, that to prescribe a refill of a controlled substance for chronic non-malignant pain, the practitioner must be an MD, DO, APRN, or PA licensed in Florida and designated as a controlled substance prescribing practitioner. Further, to prescribe such controlled substances using telehealth communications during this public health emergency, the patient must be an existing patient of the prescribing practitioner.
Earlier today, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-144 extending the State of Emergency declare in Executive Order 20-52 for another 60 days. Pursuant to the extension of Executive Order 20-52, the State Surgeon General’s Order 20-003 is also extended another 60 days as its expiration is tied to the expiration of Executive Order 20-52. Thus, telehealth providers from other states with valid and unencumbered licenses may continue to provide telehealth services to persons in Florida without registering with the Department of Health. Telehealth services must still be provided using two-way audio and video communications. Audio-only telephone calls are not permitted under Florida’s existing telehealth statute and have not been waived or suspended via the State Surgeon General’s Orders.
Health law is the federal, state, and local law, rules, regulations and other jurisprudence among providers, payers and vendors to the healthcare industry and its patient and delivery of health care services; all with an emphasis on operations, regulatory and transactional legal issues.