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I. What are the licensure requirements in Alaska for telehealth mental health care?

Alaska’s licensure requirements are unique in that they are consistent with the expansion of telemedicine seen in other states but implemented in a way that supports Alaska’s particular needs. Alaska has a very low doctor-to-population ratio. Whether in or out of state, every health practitioner, mental and physical, must apply for a business license with the state medical board to practice telehealth.

Requirements for out-of-state treatment

Alaska is not a part of any interstate health compacts due to distance and the desire to avoid guidelines and policies that may not be in the state’s best interests. Alaska has established a way for patients with private insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare coverage to access out-of-state telehealth through its business license requirement. By applying for and receiving the business license, out-of-state health care professionals can provide telehealth to residents of the state.

Emergency licensure

Because any practitioner may apply for a business license with the State Medical Board, there’s no emergency licensure procedure in place. A telehealth license isn’t needed if a licensed Alaskan health care provider is seeking the professional opinion of an out-of-state provider.

II. What are the online prescribing regulations in Alaska?

Physicians may prescribe most medications during telemedicine appointments or after other permitted types of telehealth care, but they may not do so based solely on patient history. Health care professionals may prescribe certain controlled substances to treat opioid dependence when an immediate in-person visit isn’t possible. Physicians may prescribe some controlled substances when the prescribing doctor forwards all documentation to the primary care provider and the patient has a follow-up appointment.
Remote pharmacies are permitted under certain circumstances, where a dispensing technician fills the prescription, and the pharmacist oversees remotely.

III. What are other common telehealth restrictions in Alaska?

Alaska lists some specific restrictions, such as services provided by telephone must be completed over an office telecommunications system and not the physician’s personal cell phone to ensure HIPAA compliance. Additionally, telehealth services can’t be delivered by fax. The state allows live video links and store-and-forward technology.

Types of telehealth services allowed

Alaska allows reimbursement for telemedicine appointments made by live, person-to-person video and by telephone. Alaska permits store-and-forward services, where a specialist reviews digitally recorded information about a patient, makes an evaluation, records a response, and sends it back. Alaska authorizes the reimbursement of fees for patient home-monitoring through a telemedicine application, with the physician observing the data from another location.

Types of providers allowed to offer telehealth services

Alaska’s Medical Board offers telehealth business licenses to the following medical professions:

  • Osteopath
  • Paramedic
  • Physician
  • Physician assistant
  • Podiatrist

Because a psychiatrist is a physician, the telehealth business license covers psychiatrists. Alaska passed a separate law that requires insurance reimbursement for telemedicine psychiatric appointments that include therapy.

Alaska Medicaid lists the following as provider types covered for telehealth services:

  • Advanced practice registered nurses
  • Audiologists
  • Community health aides
  • Direct-entry midwives
  • Optometrists
  • Physicians
  • Physician assistants
  • Podiatrists

Emergency allowances

In some situations, Alaska will allow another health professional to administer telehealth services when a licensed provider is unavailable. One example is the administration of a controlled substance. Alaska requires a follow-up appointment in these types of situations, which may prove difficult, especially in remote areas where weather conditions may affect patients’ ability to access a licensed provider. In emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the Health and Human Services Department may temporarily expand Medicaid and Medicare telehealth coverage.

IV. Telehealth provider resources in Alaska

Privacy is critical during the exchange of health information. Many software platforms support HIPAA compliance, and telehealth providers should indicate the security of their chosen service somewhere on their website. For more information about the latest telehealth regulations in Alaska or for information about how to secure telehealth services, please review the following sources.

Alaska Department of Health and Social Services

This department provides information about telehealth services and updates about how COVID-19 might affect them. You may find information about applying for Medicaid and what coverage you can expect for telehealth services.

Contact Information: Website | 800-478-2221

Alaska Medicaid Health Enterprise

The website for Alaska Medicaid Health Enterprise provides information about eligibility, enrollment, and benefits. You can find updates about COVID-19 telehealth expansion updates, as well as access to the member portal.

Contact Information: Website | 800-770-5650

Telemedicine Business Registry

The Alaskan Telemedicine Business Registry is on the Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development website. This page offers more information about the guidelines medical professionals must follow to obtain business licenses to provide telehealth services through their practices.

Contact Information: Website | 907-465-2694

V. Sources