The use of telehealth services has increased considerably as a result of the COVID-19 health crisis. Telehealth is the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely. For example, when someone attends an appointment with their doctor via video conferencing, they are taking advantage of telehealth services. The recent expansion of telehealth — as a way to enable people to access medical care while maintaining social distance — has allowed students, youth and young adults with disabilities to access necessary services, such as occupational therapy, speech therapy and mental health counseling services, from their homes.
The transition from in-person to telehealth services has not been perfect. Not all students have technology devices or can reliably access the internet and, by extension, telehealth services. In addition, certain services, such as physical therapy, translate less effectively in a virtual environment. Yet, states have made efforts to continue providing services to students, including those with disabilities, through telehealth and teletherapy.
Offering resources to service professionals providing telehealth services to students and young adults
The Florida Department of Education developed a resource for psychologists, social workers, school counselors and school nurses to utilize technology to provide services for students during remote learning: Telehealth for Student Services Professionals. It also provides national resources for services such as speech and language, physical and occupational therapies.
Arkansas published information for operating school health programming during the COVID-19 outbreak. The state provided guidance on occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, behavioral health, Medicaid and school nursing services. Additionally, the Arkansas Department of Education released a comprehensive Q&A document related to the provision of health services through telehealth such as teletherapy and Medicaid coverage.
Educating providers about the legal considerations of delivering telehealth services to students
The Kentucky Department of Education released information on telehealth in its Community Agencies Working in Kentucky Public Schools During COVID-19 resource. This included a webinar which addressed the following topics: 1) use of electronic consent for release of information, 2) use of various technology platforms, 3) presence of non-students in virtual learning environments, 4) HIPAA regulation waivers, and 5) release of personally identifiable information (PII) without consent for emergency health and safety reasons. Additionally, it shared information on flexibility for Medicaid billing of telehealth services and HIPAA flexibility during the pandemic.
Telehealth.hhs.gov: This federal government website provides resources to help patients understand and access telehealth services, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Telehealth: Delivering Care Safely During COVID-19: This U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website offers information for health care providers on utilizing telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
State Medicaid & CHIP Telehealth Toolkit: This toolkit provides policy considerations for states expanding use of telehealth.
COVID-19 Telehealth Toolkit: This resource from the National Consortium of Telehealth Resource Centers describes telehealth, its role during the pandemic and how it is covered under public and private insurance plans.
Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency: The Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidelines for how health providers can navigate HIPAA Rules to continue serving patients, especially individuals with disabilities, during the pandemic.
How Private Insurers Are Using Telehealth to Respond to the Pandemic: This document provides a summary of private insurers’ responses to the pandemic.
The Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute developed the resource “Telehealth & You” to communicate information on telehealth services as well as debunk some common telehealth myths.
A guide developed by the Office of Human Services Policy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides information on available streams of funding for internet access and devices. It is aimed to serve three audiences: human services providers, educational institutions and individuals and families.
Speech and Language COVID Resources
Serious Emotional Disability, Social Emotional Learning, Mental Health & Behavior
State and Federal Special Education COVID-19 Guidance
Learning Supports for Students with Disabilities
DESE Office of Special Education Compliance
COVID-19 Related School Reopening and Distance Learning
Question and Answer Guide
Teleservice Considerations for Related Services During the Current Public Health Emergency
What Families Need to Know about Additional Services Due to Extended School Closure
Preparing for Discussions on Additional Services: What Families Can Do