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Brazil: Ministry of Health Authorizes Telemedicine During Coronavirus Pandemic

(Apr. 15, 2020) On March 20, 2020, the Ministry of Health issued Portaria No. 467, which authorizes  the practice of certain forms of telemedicine on a temporary and exceptional basis. The ordinance regulates and operationalizes measures in article 3 of Law No. 13,979, of February 6, 2020, to deal with the international coronavirus pandemic.

The authorization of telemedicine practice under the ordinance is conditioned on the Public Health Emergency of National Importance declared by the Ministry of Health through Portaria No. 188 of February 3, 2020. (Portaria 467, art. 1(sole para.).) Authorized forms of telemedicine include preclinical care, support in securing medical assistance, consultations, patient monitoring, and diagnosis through information and communications technology within the scope of the Unified Health System (Sistema Unico de Saúde) and through private health services. (Art. 2.)  Such assistance must be provided by doctors directly to patients through information and communications technology that guarantees the integrity, security, and confidentiality of information. (Art. 2(sole para.).)

According to article 3 of Law No. 13,979 of February 6, 2020, in order to deal with the public health emergency resulting from the coronavirus, the authorities may adopt, within the scope of their competences, measures that include the following:

I – isolation;

II – quarantine;

III – ordering the carrying out of

a) medical examinations;

b) laboratory tests;

c) the collection of clinical samples;

d) vaccinations and other prophylactic measures; or

e) specific medical treatments;

IV – epidemiological studies or research;

V – exhumation, necropsy, cremation and corpse management;

VI – exceptional and temporary restrictions, according to the technical and reasoned recommendation of the National Health Surveillance Agency, at highways, ports or airports with regard to

a) entering and leaving the country; and

b) interstate and intercity transportation;

VII – the requisition of goods and services from natural and legal persons, in which case the subsequent payment of a fair indemnity will be guaranteed; and

VIII – exceptional and temporary authorization for the importation of products subject to health surveillance without registration with Anvisa, provided that [the products] are

a) registered by a foreign health authority; and

b) provided for in an act of the Ministry of Health.

Resolution No. 1,643/2002 of the Federal Council of Medicine defines telemedicine as “the practice of medicine through the use of interactive methodologies of audio-visual communication and data, with the objective of health assistance, education, and research.” (Resolution art. 1.) The services provided through telemedicine must have the appropriate technological infrastructure and obey the Council’s technical rules with regard to protecting data transmission and guaranteeing privacy and professional confidentiality. (Art. 2.)  In the case of emergencies or upon the request of the responsible physician, the doctor who issues the report remotely may provide the necessary diagnostic and therapeutic support. (Art. 3.)  The professional responsibility for care lies with the patient’s assistant physician. The other professionals involved will be jointly responsible to the extent that they contribute to harming the patient. (Art. 4.)