DEA and HHS Extend Telemedicine Flexibilities for Controlled Medication Prescriptions

Is your practice prescribing buprenorphine or other controlled substances by telehealth? If so, you should be aware that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced a second temporary extension of COVID-19 telemedicine flexibilities to continue allowing DEA-registered practitioners to prescribe schedule II-V controlled substance medications via telemedicine through December 31, 2024. This temporary rule applies even if the prescribing practitioner has not conducted an in-person medical assessment of the patient.

Although the DEA did not make the second temporary rule permanent, it is good news for providers and patients who rely on telemedicine visits as their preferred method of care.

Andrew Robie, MD, chief medical information officer at Unity Health Care, a large network of community health centers in the District of Columbia, said the organization’s providers use telehealth to connect quickly with patients requesting treatment or needing continuation of treatment after an emergency department visit or hospitalization.

“When our colleagues in emergency departments refer patients to us, our goal is to establish their connection to care within 24 hours, frequently utilizing telehealth as the initial access point,” said Dr. Robie, adding that throughout the pandemic, numerous patients initiated their health care journeys through telehealth due to the persistent challenges of returning to in-person clinic visits. “These DEA flexibilities will allow us to keep providing virtual care for the patients who need it,” he said.

With the second temporary rule, DEA and HHS aim to ensure a smooth transition for patients and practitioners who have come to rely on the availability of telemedicine for controlled medication prescriptions by allowing adequate time for providers to come into compliance with any new standards or safeguards. DEA is working to promulgate new standards or safeguards by the fall of 2024.

Integrated Care DC continues to support physical and behavioral health care providers seeking to strengthen their substance use disorder screening, assessment, and treatment services; optimize telehealth access and supports for continuity of care; or make other practice improvements. Our work with The Ark of DC, RAP Inc., and Unity Health Care illustrates some of the ways our coaches help providers better manage care for individuals with complex conditions.

Sign up today for a consultation with an Integrated Care DC coach or email us at [email protected] to discuss how we can help. We also encourage you to explore our Learning Library, including our EConsult/Telehealth Resources page, to find valuable training and tools that can benefit your practice.