By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
Among the major events in health law in 2019, Florida passed a comprehensive act approving telemedicine and telehealth.
Telehealth in Florida, Who and What Are Included and Excluded.
Florida’s Telehealth Act became effective on July 1, 2019. It is codified in Section 456.47, Florida Statutes (2019). It authorizes the provision of healthcare services via telecommunication methods. However, it excludes audio-only telephone calls, email, and facsimile transmissions.
Authorized healthcare services under the Florida telehealth law include, but are not limited to, assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, and monitoring of a patient; transfer of medical data; patient and professional health-related education; public health services; and health administration.
The term does not include audio-only telephone calls, e-mail messages, or facsimile transmissions, still prohibiting much of the “Internet” practice of medicine.
The law defines a “telehealth provider” as one who is licensed under Sections 456.47(1) or 456.47(4), Florida Statutes (2019), or Section 456.47(4), Florida Statutes. These include physicians, psychologists, nurses, nurse practitioners, dentists, chiropractors, psychologists, mental health counselors, and social workers, among others.
What Standard of Care Applies?
It must be remembered that under general rules of law, the law of the state where the patient is located, is the law that applies to any situation concerning malpractice or other medical issues. The standard of care for a telehealth provider remains the same as for in-person healthcare providers in the state of Florida under the new law. The new law also specifies that an authorized telehealth provider must practice only within their scope of practice.
Under the new act, a telehealth provider is not required to research a patient’s medical history or perform a medical examination, after a patient evaluation and diagnosis, before providing telehealth services. However, a telehealth provider may not prescribe controlled substances, with certain exceptions indicated in Section 456.47(2)(c), Florida Statutes (2019).
Additionally, a non-physician healthcare provider may practice via telehealth without violating Section 458.327(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2019), or Section 459.013(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2019), as long as that person is acting within the scope of their practice.
Record-keeping Requirements for Telehealth.
Telehealth providers are required to keep medical records of telehealth services they provide the same as required for in-person healthcare services.
Important Provisions Applying to Out-of-State Telehealth Providers.
The Florida law allows out-of-state healthcare practitioners, not licensed in Florida, to provide telehealth services to patients in Florida if the practitioner meets certain registration requirements by the relevant board or department. This seems to be a recognition of the fact that there are many states now that allow telehealth services to be provided to patients within their states by those not licensed by that state.
To legally provide telehealth services to a patient located in Florida, the health professional must:
1. Complete an application prescribed by the appropriate Florida board or the Florida Department of Health.
2. Be licensed in another jurisdiction, with that license being substantially similar to the applicable Florida license.
3. Not have been subject to disciplinary action related to their professional license in the immediate five-year period before application.
4. Designate a registered agent for service of process (note: this is usually a law firm or professional registered agent service).
5. Demonstrate possession of professional liability (malpractice) insurance or financial responsibility, as otherwise provided by Florida law.
An out-of-state licensed telehealth provider must also publish a link on their website to the relevant board’s or department’s website that contains the telehealth provider’s information. This information must include name, occupation, education, out-of-state license number, specialty, board certification, disciplinary actions, medical malpractice coverage, and the name and address of the registered agent to be served with process.
An applicant may not register if he or she is under pending disciplinary action. This would include any sort of investigation by a regulatory authority such as the Florida Department of Health (DOH) or the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).
An out-of-state telehealth provider may not set up an office inside Florida, nor provide in-person healthcare services in Florida, under this statute.
The relevant Florida professional board or Department of Health may take disciplinary action against an out-of-state telehealth registrant for various infractions. Penalties may include suspension or revocation of registration, issuance of a reprimand, or a letter of concern.
Exemptions to Telehealth Provider Registration Requirements.
There are two exemptions to the out-of-state telehealth practitioner registration requirement. Telehealth services may be rendered by an unregistered, licensed out-of-state practitioner:
1. In response to an emergency medical condition whereby the absence of immediate medical attention could result in death or serious bodily harm to the patient, or fetus of a pregnant woman.
2. In consultation with a Florida licensed practitioner who has ultimate decision-making authority over the matter.
To learn more about telehealth in Florida, click here to read one of my prior blogs.
Consult Florida Health Lawyer to Assist in Filing an Application, Act as Registered Agent or If You Receive Notice of an Investigation.
The state of Florida has some of the most laws and regulations applying to health professionals, health facilities and healthcare providers. If you are confronted with any need for any legal services related to any of the issues discussed in this blog, contact The Health Law Firm right away.
We provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions.
The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
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