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Recent OIG Statement on Telehealth During COVID-19

March 10, 2021

The global COVID-19 pandemic has led to many changes in healthcare and the ways in which care is provided to patients. In this national emergency situation, healthcare providers, administrators, and other officials made quick decisions to maximize access and efficiency. One of the most drastic changes in healthcare has been the rapid implementation of telehealth services.

HHS-OIG Principal Deputy Inspector General Christi A. Grimm recently acknowledged the widespread effects of the pandemic and the impact of resulting decisions on the healthcare industry. In an official statement, Grimm said that the recent milestone of 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 should remind everyone of the critical importance of the mission of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Although access to healthcare through regulatory relief is vital, proper oversight should not be neglected. Accountability is more important than ever to ensure that healthcare is delivered in the safest and most effective manner possible.

Telehealth Increased Access to Healthcare During COVID-19

Grimm cited telehealth as a prime example of a critical service becoming even more vital during this crisis. “Where telehealth and other remote access technologies were once a matter of convenience, the public health emergency made them a matter of safety for many beneficiaries,” she said. A 2019 study showed that telehealth has been an important tool for behavioral health.

To promote increased access to healthcare services, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued statements in March 2020 supporting increased regulatory flexibility. Most providers and patients appreciate the convenience of telehealth services in healthcare, and the OIG recognizes that digital technologies are likely to remain a valued tool in improving patient outcomes in the future.

How to Prevent Fraud and Abuse in Telehealth 

Unfortunately, despite all its benefits, telehealth has a downside. Unscrupulous individuals may take advantage of loosened regulations to commit fraud, abuse, or other crimes.

Current oversight work by OIG, to be published later this year, will investigate telehealth objectively to make recommendations for improvement and determine what aspects of telehealth should become permanent. OIG has investigated several large-scale telefraud schemes over the last few years and will continue to monitor other telehealth scams that may occur.

Ultimately, OIG wants to ensure that telehealth continues to deliver quality care to patients.

Healthcare entities have the same goal, but they may be challenged to do so in a less regulated telehealth environment.

Verisys can help by providing 24-hour, continuous monitoring across all 50 states and U.S. territories. Even if your providers are traveling from another state or providing care remotely, Verisys can alert you to any new exclusions, disciplinary actions, or change in license status. Keeping your patients safe and helping prevent fraud and abuse within your organization doesn’t have to be difficult, even with the rapid expansion of telehealth services.

Juliette Willard Written by Juliette Willard
Healthcare Communications Specialist
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