Telehealth use in Covid-19 Health Emergency

For any Medicare beneficiary that can be seen through video, telehealth AND the OCR (Office of Civil Rights) has announced that they will relax enforcement on HIPAA for professionals using cell phone apps such as FaceTime, Skype, to see patients if they act in good faith, during this pandemic crisis.  See the links below.

Limitations on the CMS relaxed telehealth regulations:

  • Medicaid/ Medicare beneficiaries
  • Scope of Services
  • Effective for the duration of the Public Health Emergency

Notable changes:

  • “originating site” wavier including patient home (previously only allowed payment for patients from rural areas)
  •  New patients can utilize “Telehealth Visit” (previously required to have a prior relationship with the provider HHS will not conduct audits that ensure such a relationship for claims during this public health emergency). [Not applicable to “Virtual Check-In” and “E-Visit”]
  • Reduced or waived cost-sharing with telehealth use during this time (HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG))
  • CMS is permitting reimbursement via smartphones and other platforms/ methods (Facebook, Skype, etc.- Real time interactive audio/video)

Virtual Check-Ins:  short patient-initiated communications with a healthcare practitioner

E-visits:  non-face-to-face patient-initiated communications through an online patient portal

CMS: President-trump-expands-telehealth-benefits-medicare-beneficiaries-during-covid-19-outbreak

HHS: Notification of Enforcement Discretion for telehealth remote communications during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency

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