The COVID-19 pandemic has caused healthcare systems around the globe to rapidly, and in some cases, radically rethink the delivery of medical care. The global expansion of telehealth services is one way we have seen this transformation occur. This has resulted in significant opportunities in the field, as well as unprecedented regulatory change.
The restrictions of movement in many parts of the world due to COVID-19 has caused governments to recognise the potential of telehealth, and amend laws and regulations seemingly overnight to enable healthcare providers to deploy telehealth solutions. Many governments have adopted telehealth reforms in a matter of weeks, which may otherwise have taken years to be considered and introduced.
This Global Guide provides an overview of the current state of telehealth regulation worldwide and assists readers to identify the opportunities, challenges and risks, on a country-by- country basis.
Stephanie Wang a key contributor of the Guide shares her insights below:
- Telehealth services are permitted in almost all jurisdictions surveyed (with the exception of the Czech Republic and Belgium – although, presently, in Belgium, telehealth is permitted during the COVID-19 pandemic). However, the level of specific regulation of telehealth services vary across the jurisdictions, from none (and instead telehealth is regulated as general healthcare services) (e.g., in Austria, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy and Mexico) to specific regulations concerning telehealth services (in e.g., Brazil, China, Colombia, France and the United States). Further, depending on the jurisdiction, telehealth may be regulated at a national (e.g., China and France) or state level (e.g., Canada and the United States).
- The uptake of telehealth services, and additional regulations in this space, appear to be something that is of interest and a priority to many governments around the world. For example, jurisdictions including Argentina, Chile, China, Norway, Romania and Singapore, are expected to adopt telehealth specific legislation soon. In other jurisdictions such as Thailand, Denmark, and the Netherlands, although there is no specific legislation in the pipeline, the governments of these countries appear to have commenced projects / undertaken initiatives promoting the use of telehealth services.
- In contrast, we observed that interestingly, in Mexico, specific regulations concerning telehealth were introduced and in force between December 2015 and April 2018. However, following this period, the Mexican government took the view that telehealth is an activity integrated in healthcare services and on that basis, it did not need to be separately and specifically regulated and can instead, be regulated as part of general healthcare services.
- We also note that of the jurisdictions surveyed, the only jurisdiction in which it was indicated that telehealth services were performed in limited scope (by reason of the regulatory requirements) was Russia.
- None of the jurisdictions surveyed suggest that there are specific privacy and/or data protection laws that apply particularly to the provision of telehealth services. Rather, the general privacy and data protection laws of each jurisdiction (including as they relate to personal and health-related information) would apply (e.g., in the European Union, the main piece of legislation in this regard is “GDPR”). However, this of course, may be subject to change.
Should you wish to discuss any aspects of telehealth with a specialist lawyer, please get in touch.