Look Into Additional Options For Obtaining Your Florida MMJ
Let’s face it; waiting rooms are contained areas that are crowded and not the most fun place to spend your time. During COVID-19, it is likely the last place you want to be unless absolutely necessary! To reduce the risk, many providers have gone on the offensive to cancel or reschedule appointments that can wait until after the current situation passes. Although a well-intended practice, this is often not an option for patients who need to physically see a medical doctor.
I have received countless calls over the past couple weeks from medical marijuana patients in need of renewals, but don’t know what to do as they can’t get thru to their certifying doctor when they require new orders. Others don’t know if the OMMU is taking longer to process their applications and even more are concerned if the MMTC’s will be open and still have products to sell?
For established patients who need order renewals, you are in luck as the Florida Surgeon General has issued an emergency order stating that certified marijuana physicians can conduct virtual telehealth visits for “existing qualified patients with an existing certification issued by that physician”. This means a physical exam in the short-term is not required for your 7-month renewal, as long as you have been seen and issued a certification by that provider.
With so many HIPAA compliant options on the market today, no medical marijuana doctor should force renewals into a physical practice unless required by law or extenuating circumstances make physical revaluation necessary. In 99.9% of instances, this is not the case, as you already met with the provider, was physically examined, discussed the risks and benefits, acknowledged the informed consent and established a physician-patient relationship. If your current marijuana doctor tells you that they “are not doing virtual renewals” or want to charge extra for this service, I would consider thinking about finding a different doctor. You will have to physically see them as well, as it will be a new relationship, but no one should be forced to take a risk if it is not required or pay extra in the name of safety.
To make it completely accessible to patients and providers who do not have a dedicated telehealth system in place, the HHS Office for Civil Rights, which enforce HIPAA, has released new rules. During these difficult times restrictions have been lifted to allow expanded access to video chat availability. Some options that have now been made available include FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger Video Chat, with the expectation that providers inform patients that these third party applications may introduce privacy risks.
Although the Office of Medical Marijuana Use is still advertising around 10 days for applications to be processed and approved (5 days for payment posting and 5 days for application review), my experience over the past few weeks has shown that it has taken a bit longer than usual. With that being said, in any of the numerous times that I have contacted them on our patient’s behalf, they have approved the application the same day by 6 PM if the 10 business days had passed and they had the information that was required by the patient. Besides the phone wait that can be quite an annoyance if you try to reach them at the wrong time of day, they have been willing to assist pushing thru applications as long as the 2 prior instances were met.
Before calling the OMMU helpline to inquire about the status of your application or renewal, it is important to check your online account to determine where you are in the process and if any requests have been made for additional documentation. If it has been greater than the advertised time frame for approval and no additional documents were requested, it is best to call the OMMU early in the morning, as you will often get right thru to support staff instead of having to wait. If all else fails, reach out to your certifying doctor for assistance and ask them to call on your behalf.
Currently, the Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers are open for business and continuing to serve patients. Deemed an essential service, as it should be, the dispensaries have implemented different policies and procedures to limit exposure and increase social distancing. Some examples of this have been offering special hours to patients at greatest risk, delivering directly to cars and expanding home delivery options altogether. Most MMTC’s are also offering special discounts during these tough times to help ease the financial burden patients face. To learn more about what each Florida dispensary is doing during the current epidemic, read our article on COVID-19 and Medical Marijuana in Florida.
Need an Appointment In Naples?
If you are on the southwest coast, Compassionate Healthcare of Florida is offering telehealth visits for established patients and have expanded hours into the weekends so you do not need to sit in a busy waiting room to see the doctor! We are aiming to get patients in and out of the office quickly, without the wait and risk.