HHS Guidance to Expand Reach of Healthcare Workforce is Essential Step to Address COVID-19 Demands

WASHINGTON – The Healthcare Leadership Council today praised guidance by the Department of Health and Human Services aimed at extending the capacity of the healthcare workforce and creating flexibility to address workforce needs in areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar has sent letters to state governors urging them to take steps to extend the scope of the healthcare workforce.  Those steps can include relaxing licensure restrictions to allow medical professionals to practice across state lines, enabling interstate offering of telehealth services, and easing scope of practice requirements.

“We are facing a challenge in which state boundaries must not act as barriers to meeting urgent public health needs,” said HLC president Mary R. Grealy.  “The COVID-19 spread is not evenly balanced and some states and localities are already being overwhelmed by cases.  For example, there are extreme needs for respiratory therapists in some healthcare facilities to treat people with severe coronavirus symptoms. Secretary Azar is taking the right and necessary step in encouraging legal and regulatory flexibility so that healthcare professionals can go to where the greatest needs exist.”

She said HHS is also correct in recognizing the importance of telehealth services during this public health emergency.  “In an environment in which it is better to keep patients at home, where possible, and out of crowded hospitals and physician waiting rooms, telemedicine and remote patient monitoring will play a vital role in providing quality healthcare in a safe environment.  We are pleased that HHS is encouraging extension of those services across state lines.”