the Ryan Haight Act
On January 31, 2020, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services issued a public health emergency as a result of COVID-19. The emergency declaration requires public health professionals, first responders, and public officials to work together to minimize death while preventing illnesses. The declarations provided the government with the flexibility to waive or modify standard requirements as it relates to both public and private insurance, service providers, and authorizations including telehealth. Telehealth provided access to healthcare to those who face barriers as well as flexibility in being able to manage care while reducing the spread of COVID-19 along with other infectious diseases. There remained uncertainty regarding the freedom to prescribe controlled substances via telemedicine with the Biden administration set to end the public health emergency on May 11, 2023. However, on February 24, 2023, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) released a proposed rule that aims to permanently extend controlled substance prescribing flexibilities.
COVID-19 has rapidly changed the healthcare field unlike anything has before. With the continued spread, healthcare providers have started to adopt telehealth as a way to access patients and continue to provide quality care, without breaking their self-isolation. One avenue that has long been closed off for physicians has been online prescribing, but COVID-19 appears to be changing even that.
Telehealth allows for the delivery and facilitation of medical services through technology. It is rapidly evolving as the tech industry grows. Ten years after the passage of the Ryan Haight Act, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has still not taken any action to assist physicians in their usage of telehealth. Recently, Congress finally stepped in and passed a bill that requires the DEA to take action within the next year. But, the question still remains whether the DEA will finally act, or continue their history of avoidance?