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The same regulations apply to telehealth and traditional medicine. Physicians must meet Arkansas’ licensure requirements and hold a current license to practice medicine in the state. Mental health professionals must be licensed and have a Technology-Assisted Distance specialization license to use remote therapy options.
Arkansas statute 17-80-404 section d(1) states that doctors can treat Arkansas patients using telemedicine as long as they are licensed to practice in the state and in good standing. The same rules apply to in-person and virtual appointments.
While some states may participate in multi-state compacts that recognize providers in other states as reciprocally licensed, Arkansas has no permanent reciprocity agreements surrounding telehealth providers. There is an exception to this statute that allows for occasional consultations.
During a public health emergency, such as a pandemic or when the state is facing a shortage of local providers, emergency actions may be used to supersede standard licensing regulations. For example, Governor Hutchinson signed an Executive Order on March 13, 2020, suspending the requirement for a face-to-face visit to establish a professional relationship. This temporary order lets new patients receive health care via telehealth screenings without the need for an office visit. The waiver removed the specialty license for long-distance/remote therapy, including online therapy.
The Telemedicine Act of Arkansas allows you to see doctors in a virtual office setting, but not all aspects of care may be delivered without a physical examination. One restriction on care is the ability to write prescriptions for new illnesses or conditions. If you don’t have a professional relationship with your doctor that includes at least one in-person visit, you can’t be prescribed schedule II-V drugs. During emergencies, governmental waivers may remove some of these limits.
You can get refills on existing prescriptions for controlled substances if your doctor certifies they can provide the same standard of care as during an in-person visit.
Before choosing a telehealth service, make sure you know which services are covered by insurance via remote technologies, which technologies meet the requirements for telehealth services, and what services might be excluded from coverage. Contact your insurance company to obtain authorization before moving any service to a virtual platform.
Arkansas defines telemedicine as a virtual transaction in real-time. The state doesn’t permit audio-only devices, such as telephones and excludes services via text, fax or email. Arkansas allows remote patient monitoring and store-it-forward technology, which is the gathering of data, images or lab reports for evaluation at a later time and site.
Any licensed health care professional allowed to practice within the state of Arkansas is permitted to offer telehealth services, as long as their scope of practice is compatible with a remote platform. For example, a phlebotomist can’t draw blood through remote systems and thus would not be eligible for reimbursement of services offered via telehealth. Doctors, therapists, speech pathologists, and dozens of other specialist providers can and do successfully offer services to existing patients through telehealth.
During a public health crisis, restrictions may be relaxed to allow patients to continue receiving care when visiting the hospital or health center might be a high-risk activity. A waiver extended by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services allows for reimbursement for services provided by out-of-state licensed health care professionals. Executive Order 20-05 relaxes several telehealth rules, including the prohibition on services delivered solely via telephone.
Health care regulations change rapidly, and emergency powers and authorizations may temporarily let you take unusual actions. To ensure that you always receive services under current law, you need to stay up-to-date. You want to ensure your remote services are HIPAA compliant, protecting your privacy. Below are several resources to help you find the right technology platform and specific telehealth support.
The AFMC is a nonprofit organization that works with both patients and health care providers to improve care quality and access. It offers a list of in-state telehealth technology providers that advertise HIPAA compliance and rapid rollout.
Contact Information: Website | 877-650-2362
Stay up to date on changes to Medicare and Medicaid regulations and reimbursement policies with the information provided by AHIP. This national association advocates and lobbies for health care providers to improve care quality from coast to coast.
Contact Information: Website | 202-778-3200
The state’s Board of Health keeps track of recent legislative updates. Visitors to the site can find the latest waivers, public health emergencies and executive orders.
Contact Information: Website | 501-661-2000