Telehealth and Prescribing: What’s Permissible in Your State?

Telehealth’s state-by-state regulatory patchwork means that healthcare providers must navigate a variety of regulations that govern which types of care can be provided by virtual means, and even what modalities can be used in different care settings.

Our new interactive map explores the standards and requirements that physicians and nurse practitioners must follow when prescribing non-controlled substances or ordering tests via a telemedicine encounter in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Key issues addressed in the survey include:

  • In what states are asynchronous solutions permitted?
  • What are state rules governing prescriptions when a physician-patient relationship does not exist prior to the telehealth encounter?
  • What are state rules on prescribing via audio-visual encounters or audio-only encounters?
  • Under what state regulations can a questionnaire be sufficient to create a physician-patient or advance practice registered nurse-patient relationship?

Click here to access the map and download the full report. 




Three Digital Health Trends Affecting Investors in 2021

Private equity deal volume hit a low in the first half of 2020 as the pandemic slowed the US and global economies. But toward the end of the year, deals began picking back up, particularly in the digital health space.

COVID-19 forced healthcare providers to shift from in-person to virtual care, and technology was the vehicle to make that switch possible. Investors noticed, and more deals focused on companies specializing in telehealth, remote patient monitoring and other technology platforms that facilitate communication among specialists.

Expect this trend to continue in 2021, and keep these three factors in mind when evaluating the digital health landscape.

Easing of Laws and Regulations Surrounding Telehealth and Digital Health

Both telehealth and digital health are highly regulated, as every state has laws and regulations that govern how care is provided virtually and how those services are billed. In response to the pandemic, we’ve seen flexibility with these laws and regulations, and the Biden administration has signaled that it might make some flexibilities permanent.

Investment opportunities will likely increase as a result of the Biden administration’s willingness to lower some of the longstanding barriers to coverage and payment for virtual services, including telehealth, remote patient monitoring and other related services. That’s a positive sign for firms looking at healthcare through the lens of a technology solution.

Reallocation of Resources Due to Vaccine Rollout

Since the onset of the pandemic, labs have conducted a huge volume of testing and have had to ramp up personnel and other resources. Plus, the vast majority of COVID-19 tests must be ordered by a physician or nurse, further straining available resources.

While testing will likely continue in some capacity for a long time, the number of tests will presumably decline steadily as more people are vaccinated. That means capacity will open up, both for healthcare providers who were ordering the tests and for lab companies that were performing them. As a result, firms should begin asking themselves:

  • Where are there opportunities to shift focus and resources previously devoted to testing?
  • What other conditions lend themselves to at-home testing?
  • Where can companies shift efforts that were previously focused on reviewing orders?

Addressing Mental Health and the Other Epidemic

COVID-19 obviously emerged as the foremost health emergency of the past year. But it’s important to remember that the United States is still in the midst of an opioid addiction epidemic.

On top of that, COVID-19 has been hard on many people’s mental health. In response, many employers have made mental health a higher priority, and that trend is likely to continue, even as employees return to the workplace. In 2021, investors are likely to continue to emphasize digital health tools and service offerings that are focused on mindfulness and behavior health.

To learn more from Lisa and other thought leaders about the healthcare investing landscape heading into 2021, you can view a recording of The Deal’s webinar here.




Brexit/GDPR: European Commission Publishes Draft Adequacy Decision for Data Transfers

On 19 February 2021, the European Commission published the draft for an adequacy decision regarding transfers of personal data to the UK. For businesses in the European Union (and EEA) who transfer data to business partners and vendors in the UK, it will be crucial that the final decision is made before the end of June 2021.

Thanks to an additional transitional period for data transfers in the last-minute EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), the worst fears of data protection experts that the UK could become a “third country” overnight did not materialise. However, this period ends no later than in June 2021.

While the chances that final decision will be issued in time have now increased, companies in the EU/EEA should be aware that this is not guaranteed. In case the Commission fails to authorize data transfers to the UK, businesses should – if no other safeguards are present – be prepared enter into the standard contractual clauses (SCCs, aka Model Contracts) in order to comply with the GDPR.

McDermott can help you with identifying data transfers to the UK and choosing the right SCCs.




FDA Issues Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Action Plan

On January 12, 2021, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released its Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML)-Based Software as a Medical Device (SaMD) Action Plan. The Action Plan outlines five actions that FDA intends to take to further its oversight of AI/ML-based SaMD:

  1. Further develop the proposed regulatory framework, including through draft guidance on a predetermined change control plan for “learning” ML algorithms
    • FDA intends to publish the draft guidance on the predetermined change control plan in 2021 in order to clarify expectations for SaMD Pre-Specifications (SPS), which explain what “aspects the manufacturer changes through learning,” and Algorithm Change Protocol (ACP), which explains how the “algorithm will learn and change while remaining safe and effective.” The draft guidance will focus on what should be included in an SPS and ACP in order to ensure safety and effectiveness of the AI/ML SaMD algorithms. Other areas of focus include identification of modifications appropriate under the framework and the submission and review process.
  2. Support development of good machine learning practices (GMLP) to evaluate and improve ML algorithms
    • GMLPs are critical in guiding product development and oversight of AI/ML products. FDA has developed relationships with several communities, including the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers P2801 Artificial Intelligence Medical Device Working Group, the International Organization for Standardization/ Joint Technical Committee 1/ SubCommittee 42 (ISO/ IEC JTC 1/SC 42) – Artificial Intelligence, and the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation/British Standards Institution Initiative on AI in medical technology. FDA is focused on working with these communities to come to a consensus on GMLP requirements.
  3. Foster a patient-centered approach, including transparency
    • FDA would like to increase patient education to ensure that users have important information about the benefits, risks and limitations of AI/ML products. To that end, FDA held a Patient Engagement Advisory meeting in October 2020, and the agency will use input gathered during the meeting to help identify types of information that it will recommend manufacturers include in AI/ML labeling to foster education and promote transparency.
  4. Develop methods to evaluate and improve ML algorithms
    • To address potential racial, ethical or socio-economic bias that may be inadvertently introduced into AI/ML systems that are trained using data from historical datasets, FDA intends to collaborate with researchers to improve methodologies for the identification and elimination of bias, and to improve the algorithms’ robustness to adapt to varying clinical inputs and conditions.
  5. Advance real world performance monitoring pilots
    • FDA states that gathering real world performance data on the use of the SaMD is an important risk-mitigation tool, as it may allow manufacturers to understand how their products are being used, how they can be improved, and what safety or usability concerns manufacturers need to address. To provide clarity and direction related to real world performance data, FDA supports the piloting of real world performance monitoring. FDA will develop a framework for gathering, validating and evaluating relevant real world performance parameters [...]

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Waiver of State Licensure Requirements for the Delivery of COVID-19 Countermeasures via Telehealth

In a fourth amendment to the March 17, 2020, Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act), the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has expanded access to COVID-19 Covered Countermeasures through telehealth and clarified the scope of liability protections provided by the PREP Act. In particular, the declaration is important to telehealth providers because it appears to preempt, under certain circumstances, state laws that have limited cross-border practice of medicine using telehealth. Healthcare providers should take note that the licensure exception and any immunity protections are limited to healthcare providers who are ordering or administering a Covered Countermeasure and there is no indication of intent to expand beyond these focused measures.

Access the article.




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