Telehealth in Georgia FAQ

Is informed consent required prior to conducting a telemedicine visit?

Yes, Georgia’s Medicaid program requires physicians to obtain a written consent prior to a telemedicine visit to be reimbursed.

Sample telemedicine informed consent form

How can I ensure my telemedicine visits are HIPAA-compliant?

HIPAA requires the use of a secure communications system to protect the integrity of electronic protected health information (e-PHI). This means that unprotected networks that do not use proper end-to-end encryption (e.g., SMS, basic Skype, and email) should not be used for telemedicine visits. Medical practices should consequently use video software vendors that have HIPAA business associate agreements (BAAs).

It is also worth noting that during the COVID-19 “Public Health Emergency,” the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Georgia Composite Medical Board and other regulatory agencies have waived certain telemedicine rules and regulations, including those that govern HIPAA compliance for telemedicine video platforms.

HHS ‘Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (including a list of vendors with HIPAA BAAs)

HIPAA Journal ‘HIPAA Guidelines on Telemedicine’

HHS ‘Security Rule Guidance Material’

Details on COVID-19 telemedicine waivers and emergency rules

Is the payment for telemedicine and in-person visits the same?

Payment will vary depending on the patient’s insurance plan. Georgia law requires payment parity in telemedicine and in-person visits, but this does not apply to plans that are not subject to state regulation (e.g., ERISA).

CCHP Georgia Service/Payment Parity web page

What steps should a physician take to establish a telemedicine practice?

There are multiple steps and precautions that a physician should take before they incorporate telemedicine into their practice. The American Medical Association (AMA) has developed some payment, coding and policy tips and guidelines to help physicians become familiar with telemedicine. AMA encourages physicians who are establishing a telemedicine practice to 1) contact their medical malpractice insurer to ensure that they have adequate coverage and 2) confirm that their medical license is valid for telemedicine.

AMA quick guide helps doctors boot up their telemedicine practice

HealthIT.gov Telemedicine & Telehealth web page

Are there telemedicine-specific ethics guidelines?

A lot of the medical profession’s basic ethical principles apply regardless of the setting (i.e., in-person vs. telehealth), but AMA has developed some guidelines that will help physicians deliver telehealth services in an ethical way.

AMA ‘Ethical Practice in Telemedicine’

Is the coding for in-person and telemedicine visits the same?

Not always – as some telemedicine visits require unique billing codes.

AMA Telehealth policy, coding & payment

AMA Special coding advice during COVID-19 public health emergency

Have Georgia’s telemedicine prescribing guidelines for controlled substances changed during the pandemic?

Yes. The Georgia telemedicine prescribing guidelines for controlled substances that were enacted in March, 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic allow physicians who have a DEA license to write prescriptions for controlled substances for “patients whom they have not conducted an in-person evaluation for if they meet certain criteria, including the prescription being for a legitimate medical reason within the normal realm of the physician’s practice, the telemedicine visit is via a two-way audio-visual interactive communication system, and the practitioner is acting within the federal and state laws regarding telemedicine provisions.”

Lexology ‘Breaking Developments for Telehealth and Teleprescribing in Georgia’