(Apr. 30, 2020) Responding to the COVID-19 health situation, Uruguay’s Parliament recently passed Law 19869, providing a legal framework for telemedicine. The measure was published in the Diario Oficial on April 15, 2020.
The new law is in line with the National Health Board’s recommendations that health care providers prioritize alternative means of access to medical consultations and decongest hospital centers, the law firm Ferrere reported. The firm noted the new law creates opportunities for the e-health industry and addresses the need for new forms of health care caused by the pandemic.
Under article 3 of the new law as described by Ferrere, telemedicine is to be based on the following principles:
- Universality – guarantees better access to health care for the entire population.
- Equity – makes it possible to eliminate geographic barriers, bringing services to the population in remote places and with scant resources.
- Quality of service – promotes improved quality and comprehensive care for patients, strengthening the capacities of health care personnel.
- Efficiency – reduces health costs by optimizing assistance resources, improving demand management, shortening hospital stays, and decreasing repetition of medical acts and displacements of health care workers.
- Decentralization – optimizes attention at health care services, enhancing the process of decentralization of the Comprehensive National Health Care System.
- Complementarity – complements the assistance provided by the attending physician.
- Confidentiality – emphasizes confidentiality in the physician-patient relationship, guaranteeing security in the exchange of information between practitioners or health centers.
Patients must give specific consent for treatments, procedures, and diagnostics, as well as for the transmission and exchange of information from their clinical history. Such consent may be revoked at any time. All information transmitted and stored using telemedicine must be considered sensitive for data privacy and protection purposes, requiring appropriate security and confidentiality measures. (Ley 19869, arts. 7, 8.)
In the case of medical consultation or an exchange of information through telemedicine with physicians residing abroad, those physicians must provide the local health care service provider with evidence of their registration and qualification to practice medicine in their country of residence. This requirement does not apply to physicians already registered and authorized to practice medicine in Uruguay. (Art. 9.)
The law authorizes the Ministry of Health to establish action protocols within 90 days of the law’s passage. (Art. 4.)