March 20, 2020
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health Health Information Technology
On Friday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released two toolkits on telehealth—one specific to general practitioners and the other to providers treating patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
As part of efforts to stem the transmission of the novel coronavirus, CMS has broadened access to telehealth services so that Medicare beneficiaries can receive a wider range of services from their doctors without having to travel to a health care facility.
CMS is expanding this benefit on a temporary and emergency basis under the 1135 waiver authority and Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. Under this new waiver, Medicare can pay for office, hospital, and other visits furnished via telehealth across the country and including in patient’s places of residence starting March 6, 2020. A range of providers, such as doctors, nurse practitioners, clinical psychologists, and licensed clinical social workers, will be able to offer telehealth to their patients. These benefits are part of the broader effort by CMS and the White House Task Force to ensure that all Americans – particularly those at high-risk of complications from the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 are aware of easy-to-use, accessible benefits that can help keep them healthy while helping to contain the community spread of this virus.
Each toolkit contains electronic links to reliable sources of information on telehealth and telemedicine, which will reduce the amount of time providers spend searching for answers and increase their time with patients. Many of these links will help providers choose learn about the general concept of telehealth, choose telemedicine vendors, initiate a telemedicine program, monitor patients remotely, and develop documentation tools. Additionally, the information contained within each toolkit will also outline temporary virtual services that could be used to treat patients during this specific period of time.
Telehealth Information for California Physicians
The California Medical Association (CMA) is also compiling telehealth information from the major payors in the state. Physicians should be aware that each payor's rules on what they will pay may differ and that CMA is working with to obtain their official guidance. See CMA’s COVID-19 Telehealth Response for the latest information. This document will be updated regularly as new information becomes available.
AMA has also published a telehealth quick guide.
CMA has set up a COVID-19 resource page, where you will find links to the latest news, research and developments on the COVID-19 outbreak for physicians and other health care providers.