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Gov. Newsom relaxes state’s health care privacy and security laws to facilitate telehealth

April 04, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Patient Privacy Public Health 


Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday issued an executive order that relaxes certain state privacy and security laws for health care providers, so they can provide telehealth services without the risk of being penalized. This action is similar to the waiver issued on March 17, 2020, by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding federal privacy and security laws.

The new executive order suspends the patient consent requirement for telehealth services and administrative fines, penalties, and civil causes of action pursuant to California privacy laws. It also reduces burdens on physicians by suspending or extending timelines with regard to various breach notification requirements. These flexibilities apply to telehealth provided for any reason, regardless of whether the telehealth service is related to the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions related to COVID-19.

The order expands protections as physicians are moving en masse to telehealth for routine and non-emergency medical appointments in an effort to minimize patient exposure to COVID-19. The executive order is in line with recommendations made by the California Medical Association in a letter to Gov. Newsom on March 23, 2020.

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