The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is paying for a wider range of telemedicine services during the coronavirus pandemic as of March 6, 2020. These remote medical services are available for all patients, not just those receiving coronavirus treatment. Telehealth services now include remote patient monitoring for both chronic and acute conditions, and allow doctors to collect Medicare payments for making phone calls to patients.
CMS is including 80 additional remote patient services in it's list that can be provided and billed using telehealth. Also, patients can now use interactive healthcare apps "to visit with their clinician for an even broader range of services,” and providers "also can evaluate patients who have audio phones only," making it easier for patients to stay at home and shelter in place. Healthcare providers will be able to bill for remote telehealth visits at the same rate as in-person visits which has not been possible in the past.
Additional policy changes include allowing clinicians to use telehealth to fulfill face-to-face visit requirements for providers treating patients in inpatient rehabilitation facilities and those receiving hospice care or home healthcare. Remote monitoring services can be provided for patients with acute or chronic conditions -- for instance, using a pulse oximeter to remotely monitor a patient's oxygen saturation level. Clinicians also can supervise staff members virtually instead of needing to be on-site.
CMS had previously required that consultations have both audio and visual elements. Many healthcare advocates had pushed the agency to eliminate that requirement, stating that some sessions can easily be conducted over the phone.
We applaud CMS for these telemed changes and waivers. While this change is intended to be temporary to support social distancing in the time of COVID-19 and the reduction of the spread of the pandemic, we anticipate that the benefits of telehealth remote patient services will be proven out during this period, and there will be long lasting adoption of these policies by CMS and other payers. Perhaps telehealth has finally come into its own.
To learn more about how Healthmonix is supporting the healthcare industry at this time, view our COVID-19 updates.
If you are a provider that is eligible for MIPS, see our list of quality measures that can be reported for telehealth services here. More to come on this topic.