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Telehealth Law Florida: Delivery System for Substance Abuse Services

telemedicine lawBy: Karina Gonzalez

Telehealth law Florida is constantly evolving The latest example is found with Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) recent proposed rule change which now includes a definition of Telehealth as a delivery system in substance abuse.  Telehealth can be used in treatment or prevention services through electronic communications from one site to another.  However, it does not include delivery of services using only the audio on a telephone, or e-mails, text messages, fax transmissions, US mail or other parcel service. Proposed Rule 65D-30.0031 (83) Definitions.

Telehealth services can be used in intensive outpatient, day or night treatment, day or night treatment with community housing, outpatient, interventions, aftercare, and prevention.   If a substance abuse provider plans on including telehealth services it must submit to DCF detailed procedures outlining which services it intends to provide. The provider will be responsible for the quality of the equipment and technology used in the telehealth service. Proposed Rule 65D-30.004 (20) Common Licensing Standards.

Telehealth Law Florida Details

Only certain services which will be allowed using telehealth, those are clinical screenings, assessments and counseling. With counseling, there was no exclusion on group counseling except a group cannot have more than 15 individuals.  Telehealth services must be provided and received by individuals residing within Florida only. The rule has an exception for providers that are licensed for outpatient, intervention and prevention, apparently those providers can use a telehealth service outside of Florida. Once telehealth is used outside of Florida, the physician providing service must also be licensed in the state of the individual that is receiving the service. Telehealth law Florida is going to continue to evolve and providers must stay apprised of specifics.

Approval for Telehealth

To get approval for Telehealth, a provider must have a two-way, real-time electronic communication with security of the technology that meets federal confidentiality regulations. The interactive telecommunication equipment must include audio and high-resolution video equipment which allows the staff providing the service to clearly view and understand the individual who is receiving the service.

Comment Period is Now

While the final rules are pending, it is clear that there will be an expanded use of telehealth services a delivery method for substance abuse.  Of course, providers will need to be in compliance with Florida’s general requirements for telehealth and with the individual payor requirements.  Many of the large commercial plans have requirements for how the services are delivered, Medicare has specific requirements under fee for service and Florida Medicaid also has its own guidelines for telehealth delivery.

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