On June 26, 2021, the Florida state of emergency due to COVID-19 expired, and temporary emergency order 20-002 (along with others) lapsed and expired as well. In response, The Florida Department of Health issued an email update to registrants on July 1, 2021 advising licensed and registered healthcare providers that as a result of the expiration of the temporary emergency order “controlled substance prescribers are [now] required to conduct an in-person physical examination to issue a renewal prescription for a controlled substance.” Meaning controlled substances may no longer be prescribed using telehealth services.
 
However, the update does not address the impact of the expiration in light of the current Florida legislation, statute 456.47, which governs the provision of telehealth services. The legislation provides specific carveouts for Florida licensed healthcare providers and out-of-state providers using telehealth services to provide treatment. Thus, it allows for the continuity of  some telehealth services that would otherwise be impacted by The Florida Department of Health update. 
 
Subsection 456.47(2)(c) of the statute impacts most Florida telehealth providers and states the following:
“A telehealth provider may not use telehealth to prescribe a controlled substance unless the controlled substance is prescribed for the following:
1.The treatment of a psychiatric disorder;
2.Inpatient treatment at a hospital licensed under chapter 395;
3.The treatment of a patient receiving hospice services as defined in s. 400.601; or
4.The treatment of a resident of a nursing home facility as defined in s. 400.021.”
 
This paragraph effectively allows telehealth providers to continue prescribing controlled substances under these specific exceptions, irrespective of the Department of Health advisory notice.
 
It is important to note there are significant nuances that must be taken into consideration when providing telehealth services and prescribing treatment under this statute. We advise both Florida licensed providers and out-of-state providers to consult with their attorney regarding The Florida Department of Health email update and how it may impact their healthcare practice before continuing the provision of telehealth services. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Komal S. Mirza is an attorney with Mirza| Healthcare Law Partners.
For more information visit www.MirzaHealthLaw.com, or if you have a specific legal question, ask Komal at KMirza@MirzaHealthLaw.com.