Alabama Telemedicine: Law, Rules, Policies, and Regulations

Posted by Michael Hsu on 6/7/20 8:39 AM
Michael Hsu

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Alabama has been paving its way to broader telemedicine usage and acceptance for more than half a decade at this point. With Alabama governor signing the Interstate Medical Licensing Compact in 2015, the state officially allowed for telemedicine expansion, as the aim of the compact is to make the process of getting a license much easier for physicians across several states.

Since Alabama is packed with underserved and rural areas all across the state, telemedicine is seeing huge success. Many citizens don’t have access to in-person doctor visits, which used to be a major issue but is no more. The good news is that we are expecting to see even bigger telemedicine coverage within the state over the next couple of years.

If you want to understand Alabama’s journey to telemedicine acceptance better, as well as the current state of it, we should take a look at restrictions, laws, policies, regulations, and rules first.

Alabama Telemedicine Definitions

Unlike the majority of the states in the U.S., Alabama doesn’t have a precise definition of telemedicine noted in the state Medicaid policy. What the state does have, though, is a provider manual that explains how telemedicine is supposed to work:

Services have to be administered through an interactive audio or video telecommunications system which permits two-way communication between the distant site physician and the origination site where the recipient is located. This doesn’t include a telephone conversation, electronic mail message, or facsimile transmission between the physician, recipient, or consultation between two physicians.

Telehealth Nursing is defined as ‘the practice of distance nursing care using telecommunications technology.’

According to the Board of Social Work, ‘telehealth is a mode of providing social work services through interactive audio, video or electronic communication occurring between a licensed social worker and the client, including any electronic communication for evaluation, assessment, treatment, and management of confidential information and case records in a secure platform.’

The Board of Optometry also describes telemedicine in the scope of their field: ‘As used in these regulations, a health service that is delivered by a licensed optometrist acting within the scope of his or her license and that requires the use of telecommunications technology other than telephone or facsimile’. According to the Board, telecommunications technology should include, but not be limited to:

  • Clinical data transmission using computer imaging by way of still image capture and store and forward
  • Compressed digital interactive audio, video, or data transmission
  • Other technology that facilitates access to healthcare services or optometric specialty services.

Alabama Parity Law

Although there is no official parity law in Alabama, mental health and autism coverage can be found in the state insurance law (title 27, chapter 54.) All mental health disorders are listed in the International Classification of Diseases, in the section where mental disorders are mentioned, but substance abuse is excluded.

Large employer fully-insured plans should offer optional mental health coverage, according to the section of the law. This doesn’t apply to individual and small employer plans, though

Even though all mental health conditions are listed in the section, these are specifically highlighted in the 27-54-4 section:

  • Schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and schizophreniform disorder
  • Mood disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Panic disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Major depressive disorder

Inpatient care, outpatient care, and partial hospitalization are three services that are included in the coverage and need to be on ‘terms and conditions that are no less extensive’ that some of the other medical services. It is also stated in section 27-54-4 that all insurance plans are obliged to ‘use the same criteria’ as they would when treating any other medical condition.

Large employer fully-insured plans are supposed to offer optional and additional coverage for autism, and by autism, the section specifically mentions:

  • Asperger’s disorder
  • Autistic disorder
  • Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified

For treatment, these services are specified:

  • Therapeutic care
  • Behavioral health treatment
  • Psychological care
  • Psychiatric care
  • Pharmacy care

Alabama Telemedicine Licensure

After joining Interstate Medical Licensing Compact in 2015, Alabama made it super easy for physicians to tackle telemedicine. Unlike the licensure rules in some other states, physicians in Alabama can practice telemedicine without having a specific license for it.

All physicians need to have in order to practice telemedicine is a full traditional license obtained in Alabama, a special purpose license to practice telemedicine across state lines, or a license obtained via the Interstate Medical Licensing Compact.

As far as physician assistants are concerned, they need to have a license to practice as physician assistants and approved registrations to supervising physicians.

Alabama Telemedicine Recipient Consent

Before physicians examine or treat patients through telemedicine, they are required to obtain a patient’s informed and signed consent. As far as rehabilitation services are concerned, there are some additional requirements that need to be mentioned in the consent, which you can read more about in the Provider Manual.

Alabama Telemedicine after COVID-19 Breakout

As soon as the COVID-19 broke out, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) released a notice on certain changes that took place during the epidemic and that are only temporary:

  1. Medicaid covers all COVID-19 testing and treatment services
  2. Physician assistants aren’t required to work under the supervision of a physician, as long as they work within the field of their practice
  3. Mental health services are available to all citizens of Alabama
  4. Referrals for PCPs, EPSDT, and DHCPs are no longer needed
  5. Telemedicine usage is widely recommended and encouraged
  6. No co-pays are needed for medicine and services covered by Medicaid
  7. No cancelations of Medicaid coverage will take place until the state emergency is over unless users request it or move out of state
  8. ACHN care coordination is provided by phone if help is needed

The medical director for telehealth at UAB, dr. Eric Wallace stated in an interview that telehealth isn’t about getting all of their visits remotely—it is about getting as many visits as possible remotely to prevent the spread while making sure that people who need care and need it in-person have that option.

If you’re looking to get into telemedicine, we suggest that you do it as soon as possible. There has never been a better time to hop on board with it, as it’s being used massively at the moment. To have a successful beginning, we recommend that you check Curogram out.

Curogram is a two-way texting platform that is designed specifically for medical practices. We implemented some of the most advanced features that are going to help you work with ease. Create your own workflows and virtual waiting rooms, dedicate more time to your patients, and book as many patients as you desire—Curogram will support your telemedicine journey like no other platform.

In collaboration with a hospital in Houston, we adapted our platform to solve some of the most important workflow needs of COVID-19 testing sites, including scheduling, automated screening, and communication. Curogram helps identify who’s in the biggest need of testing, automates the entire screening process, reduces staff requirements by 75%, and increases the capacity of testing sites.

Alabama Medicaid Reimbursement

Although there is no information on store-and-forward reimbursement, Alabama Medicaid does reimburse for In-Home Monitoring for chronic heart failure and diabetes through the Alabama Coordinated Health Network program.

Under certain circumstances, Alabama Medicaid will reimburse for live video. Providers are not reimbursed for origination site or transmission fees, though.

Alabama Medicaid reimburses for the following services:

  1. Psychiatric diagnostic services
  2. Consultations
  3. Office or other outpatient visits
  4. Neurobehavioral status examination
  5. Individual psychotherapy

For some of these services, it is necessary that special conditions are present to be eligible for reimbursement.

There is no reimbursement for the following communication methods:

  • FAX
  • Email
  • Telephone

Alabama Telemedicine Eligible Providers

As we’ve already mentioned, all physicians and physician assistants who obtained a license in Alabama and who are enrolled as providers with the Alabama Medicaid Agency are eligible to provide telemedicine services.

According to the Provider Manual, to be able to provide these services, physicians are obliged to:

  1. Submit the telemedicine Service Certification/Agreement form
  2. Be enrolled with Alabama Medicaid with the 931 specialty type
  3. Get consent from the recipient before they give any services

Providers who can practice telemedicine for Nursing Assessment and Care services for DMH Substance abuse and DMH Mental illness are:

  • Certified Nursing Assistants
  • Licensed Registered Nurses
  • MAC workers who practice within the scope of their field of expertise
  • Licensed Practical Nurses

Alabama Telemedicine Originating Sites

The only services originating sites have to be located in Alabama for are rehabilitation services. If a physician is enrolled with Alabama Medicaid and has a license obtained in Alabama, the distant site can be located outside the borders of Alabama.

Alabama Telemedicine Eligible Originating Sites

To provide rehabilitation services, healthcare workers need to be located in the following originating sites, according to the Provider Manual:

  • Federally Qualified Health Centers
  • Hospitals
  • Physicians’ offices
  • Community mental health centers
  • Rural Health Clinics
  • Public health departments
  • Critical Access Hospitals

Online Prescribing in Alabama

The Alabama Board of Medical Examiners states that a healthcare worker is supposed to examine the patient in-person before prescribing any medications, if possible. In case healthcare workers find it safe to prescribe controlled substances under certain circumstances, they are allowed to do so as long as they comply with all applicable federal and state laws.

As far as the Board of Optometry is concerned, service providers are allowed to prescribe controlled substances if they establish a proper doctor-patient relationship first. 

Establishing a Doctor-Patient Relationship in Alabama

To establish a proper doctor-patient relationship in Alabama, certain rules proposed by the Board of Alabama Medical Examiners need to be followed. Healthcare workers involved in telemedicine are obliged to:

  • Have at least one face-to-face consultation with the recipient, which can be done either in-person or at a treatment site through telecommunication channels
  • Diagnose in a way that’s approved by accepted medical practices, and that may include mental status, patient history, and laboratory and diagnostic testing
  • Discuss the diagnosis, its evidence, and the risks and benefits of treatment options
  • Verify the recipient’s identity
  • Provide consultation, evaluation, and treatment services that are of the same quality as they would be in-person
  • Ensure availability for a followup meeting
  • Maintain their patients’ records or create them if there are no existing ones
  • Document patients’ medical histories in their records

Alabama Board of Nursing Telemedicine Regulations

According to the Alabama Board of Nursing Administrative Code, nurses who want to get involved in telemedicine are required to do as follows:

  1. Have a valid, up-to-date license obtained in Alabama
  2. Comply with all the federal and state laws regulating telenursing
  3. Have knowledge on how to use telehealth technologies and devices efficiently
  4. Maintain competency in the field of practice
  5. Follow the facility-specific policy of the permissible activities of telenursing

Why You Should Choose Curogram to Have a Successful Start in Telemedicine 

Curogram is a two-way SMS messaging platform that is intended for medical practices. The goal of our platform is to enable you to work with ease while keeping track of all important records. 

The platform has numerous features that help you work more efficiently, easily, and quickly. As soon as you start using Curogram, you will see immediate improvements in how you handle your work.

If you’re curious to know about Curogram’s advanced features, check these out:

Curogram supports HIPAA-compliant texting.

We all know by now that texting is a preferred method of communication in this day and age. Ever since people started using Curogram, phone volumes have dropped by up to 50%, which only proves our previous statement. Exchanging text messages through Curogram is fully HIPAA-compliant, which is of great relevance in most states where telemedicine isn’t allowed to be practiced through channels that aren’t HIPAA-compliant.

Curogram comes with the most advanced appointment reminders.

Appointment reminders are handy, especially because we live in a world full of rushed activities that make us forget about important things, such as doctor appointments. You can set a 15–30-minute automated reminder for your patients to ensure that they show up on time. One of the main perks of telemedicine is that you don’t need to remind your patients hours and hours ahead—external factors, such as driving time, are eliminated.

Curogram integrates with some of the best EHRs.

EHRs are one of the most important security elements that ensure full safety against any risks. That’s why Curogram integrates with over 700 of the most popular EHRs.

Curogram allows you to replicate real-life workflows.

Since it was our goal to make our app as simple to get used to as possible, we’ve introduced the feature that lets you set up multiple virtual clinics, as well as waiting rooms. Your medical staff used to organized workflows will be able to adapt to these virtual settings in no time!

Curogram facilitates internal communication and file sharing.

If you need to share your patient’s record with one of your medical staff members, but also need the file exchange to be super secure, you can be at ease with Curogram. Feel free to communicate with your team and exchange any files you like—you will be completely safe! Since it was made for medical practices specifically, it is fully HIPAA-compliant.

Curogram lets you send patient intake forms in the easiest way.

Our platform allows you to send patient intake forms either via text or secure web forms. The forms will come back to you as PDF files in the blink of an eye.

The Curogram platform is going to benefit you greatly both in the short and long run. It’s going to let you book as many patients as you like, which ultimately results in bigger revenue. You can also spend more time with your patients, which non-telemedicinal channels like Skype don’t enable you to do. That’s one of the biggest perks of our platform—you get to organize your own workflow and schedule as many appointments as you want. There are no restrictions, so you can follow your natural working tempo.

Over 5,000 medical professionals have made Curogram their main workplace because it lets them focus on patients instead of data entry. Our users enjoy Curogram, especially because the platform automatically syncs all appointments and demographic data. This eliminates the need for double entry, which is a common thing for any other system.

If you’re curious about all the EHRs Curogram integrates with, check some of these out:

Curogram EHR integrations

eClinicalWorks

Athena

Epic

Cerner

DrChrono

NextGen

Practice Fusion

CareCloud

Kareo

OfficeAlly

See More Integrations Here

If you want to set up Curogram but are afraid that you don’t have enough time—fret not—the platform can be integrated only within 48 hours. The integration time is super quick because Curogram does not rely on complicated HL7 interfaces, which take ages to process.

All in all, Curogram provides all of our users with the ultimate efficiency. If you want to practice telemedicine in the easiest, most fuss-free way, Curogram will become your best friend instantly. The platform is intuitive, so you don’t have to worry about whether or not your technological skill set is enough. You will be able to use the app to its full potential, no matter your computer competence levels.

We at Curogram offer a free 14-day trial, which lets you get some hands-on experience with the platform. Sign up today to receive all the benefits of having our app!

Telemedicine by State

Don’t see your state? We just haven’t written about it yet! Stay tuned on our blog or check out our article on telemedicine reimbursement by state.

Telemedicine by State in the US

Alabama

Indiana

Nebraska

South Carolina

Alaska

Iowa

Nevada

South Dakota

Arizona

Kansas

New Hampshire

Tennessee

Arkansas

Kentucky

New Jersey

Texas

California

Louisiana

New Mexico

Utah

Colorado

Maine

New York

Vermont

Connecticut

Maryland

North Carolina

Virginia

Delaware

Massachusetts 

North Dakota

Washington

Florida

Michigan

Ohio

West Virginia

Georgia

Minnesota

Oklahoma

Wisconsin

Hawaii

Mississippi

Oregon

Wyoming

Idaho

Missouri

Pennsylvania

 

Illinois

Montana

Rhode Island

 

Topics: telemedicine

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