Operationalizing a COVID-19 Response by Leveraging Telehealth
There are several key changes to existing telehealth regulations that have transformed the way healthcare providers can leverage telehealth technology to practice medicine and yet mitigate the spread of COVID -19.
As per the Medicaid waivers under Section 1135 of the Social Security Act (Act), the government broadened access to telehealth services as a tool to combat this pandemic. Due to these changes, Medicare can pay for office, hospital, and other visits furnished via telehealth across the country to include a patient’s places of residence starting March 6, 2020. In addition, the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) is providing flexibility for healthcare providers to reduce or waive cost-sharing for telehealth visits paid by federal healthcare programs. The following services are allowable and billable as per the new regulations:
- MEDICARE TELEHEALTH VISITS – A visit with a provider that uses telecommunication systems between a provider and a patient
- VIRTUAL CHECK-IN – A brief (5-10 minutes) check in with your practitioner via telephone or other telecommunications device to decide whether an office visit or other service is needed. A remote evaluation of recorded video and/or images submitted by an established patient.
- E-VISIT – A communication between a patient and their provider through an online patient portal.
In addition, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is waiving penalties for HIPAA violations against health care providers that serve patients in good faith through everyday communications technologies during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency and expanded the number of video applications that can be used for telehealth.
For healthcare providers, don’t hesitate to implement telehealth into your practice, your patients need you more than ever. Here are some key questions to ask as you get ready:
- What is my start date?
- How do I get paid and reimbursed?
- How do I integrate Telehealth into my scheduling?
- Do I have my patients’ current email and mobile number?
- How do I train my staff?
- How much does it cost?
- Will my malpractice coverage cover Telehealth visit?
- What technology should I choose?