During the coronavirus pandemic, organizations are gearing up to prepare for a drastic increase in the number of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive interventions. Increasing the number of ICU beds, securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, ventilator availability and other preparations are critically important issues that hospital and government leadership are working through. While social distancing, business closures and the rise of telework have thankfully minimized the number of accidents and trauma cases, there are still populations needing access to healthcare services. Some of these needs can be met while using telehealth without the risk of exposure inherent in presenting to the ER, urgent care or outpatient clinic sites. Thankfully, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a temporary emergency waiver to expand Medicare coverage and payment of virtual services.
The Latest CMS Fact Sheet
A fact sheet published by CMS on March 17th outlines the changes, and can be accessed by following this link. Here are some of the key takeaways:
- Effective for services starting March 6, 2020 and for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency,
- Medicare will make payment for Medicare telehealth services furnished to patients in broader circumstances.
These visits are considered the same as in-person visits and are paid at the same rate as regular, in-person visits.
- Starting March 6, 2020 and for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Medicare will make payment for professional services furnished to beneficiaries in all areas of the country in all settings.
Virtual, E-Visit and Videoconference Changes
In addition to changes to telehealth visits, CMS has made changes to the requirements for virtual check-ins and e-visits. Virtual check-ins allow billing of responses to recorded audio and video, secure text messages, email and patient portal messages. Virtual check-ins and e-visits will no longer require the patient to be located in a rural area or designated other facilities.
CMS has also addressed HIPAA concerns with using videoconferencing to deliver patient care:
HEALTH INSURANCE PORTABILITY AND ACCOUNTABILITY ACT (HIPAA): Effective immediately, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will exercise enforcement discretion and waive penalties for HIPAA violations against health care providers that serve patients in good faith through everyday communications technologies, such as FaceTime or Skype, during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.
Summary of Medicare Telemedicine Services
CMS Medicare Telehealth Frequently Asked Questions
Additional information can also be found on the CMS website (cms.gov), including this document listing answers to frequently asked questions. Here is a sample of the guidance the document provides:
- Under the waiver, limitations on where Medicare patients are eligible for telehealth will be removed during the emergency. In particular, patients outside of rural areas, and patients in their homes will be eligible for telehealth services, effective for services starting March 6, 2020.
- CMS maintains a list of services that are normally furnished in-person that may be furnished via Medicare telehealth. This list is available here: https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-General-Information/Telehealth/Telehealth-Codes
- These services are described by HCPCS codes and paid under the Physician Fee Schedule. Under the emergency declaration and waivers, these services may be provided to patients by professionals regardless of patient location.
As your team’s needs adapt to the changing healthcare environment, Medix Technology is ready to help with enhancing your systems and workflows to accommodate the need to rapidly deploy a telehealth solution in Epic. If you’re looking for a partner to help meet these challenges, contact our team at http://www.medixteamtechnology.com/contact-us/.