Historic Expansion of Telehealth in Response to COVID-19 Crisis

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Norris McLaughlin Health Care Alert

March 19, 2020

 
We at Norris McLaughlin recognize that the constantly changing crisis related to the COVID-19 virus has resulted in an unprecedented time for all healthcare practitioners – a time that for most is filled with uncertainty regarding their practices and patients. Of paramount concern is balancing the optimal treatment and testing of patients with the recent “social distancing” guidelines and recommendations designed to reduce the spread of infection.
 
With direct guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Federal government has announced unprecedented measures designed to expand access to telehealth services during the COVID-19 outbreak. To achieve this in a timely manner, government agencies have removed various regulatory obstacles that have historically served to limit telehealth services. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has expanded the Medicare scope of coverage for telehealth visits, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced it will waive what would typically be significant HIPAA penalties for good faith use of telehealth during the emergency, and the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) has provided flexibility for healthcare practitioners to reduce or waive beneficiary cost-sharing for telehealth visits paid by federal healthcare programs.
 
We continue to receive numerous inquiries from healthcare practitioners requesting information regarding providing telehealth services. It is imperative that practitioners become aware of, at a minimum, the types of telehealth services allowable, the security requirements for communications with patients and the applicable billing and coding requirements, whether the claim is submitted to a commercial insurance company or Medicare/Medicaid.
 
The answers to these inquiries are largely dependent on specialty and needs of a particular patient population. We strongly encourage you to contact our office to discuss these and any other issues related to the present COVID-19 crisis. In order to provide our clients with as much information possible, Norris McLaughlin has launched the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Preparedness Resource Center. Here, you will find regulatory updates and information regarding the virus and accordant legal concerns. You will also find related blog posts and articles.
 
We also refer you to the following webinar video regarding telehealth regulations and coding guidelines presented by Jacqueline Thelian of Medco Consultants. An expert in this field, Ms. Thelian is a preeminent certified coder who regularly advises healthcare practitioners in coding and billing matters.
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