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AHA’s List of COVID-19 Flexibilities That Should Stay and Go

AHA is pushing for telehealth reimbursement and other COVID-19 flexibilities to become a permanent part of the health policy landscape. But other waivers threaten the quality of patient care once the pandemic ends, the group says.

July 02, 2020 – As the country entered both a national emergency and public health emergency, CMS implemented a range of COVID-19 flexibilities, including waivers that enabled hospitals and health systems to increase access to testing and telehealth, create additional workforce capacity, and develop new treatment locations.

The COVID-19 flexibilities have been key to pivoting hospital…

How to Make Remote Monitoring Tech Part of Everyday Health Care

By making the collection of valuable patient data feasible outside of the clinic, remote monitoring can facilitate care for conditions ranging from chronic diseases to recovery from acute episodes of care. For years, it has been touted as one of the most promising opportunities for health care in the digital age. But the pandemic has underscored its value. Indeed, policy changes introduced during the pandemic due to the riskiness of in-person patient visits have created conditions ripe for its adoption. We urge regulators to extend these changes beyond the pandemic and for health care leaders to take…

CMS 2021 Proposed Home Health Payment Rule May Make Certain Telehealth Changes Introduced During COVID-19 Pandemic Permanent

As we previously reported, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued temporary rules to allow increased use of telehealth services. On June 25, 2020, CMS issued a proposed rule for calendar year 2021 that includes a proposal to make permanent the regulatory changes related to telehealth beyond the expiration of the public health emergency due to COVID-19.

Under the proposed rule, home health agencies (HHAs) can continue to utilize telehealth in providing care to beneficiaries under the Medicare home health benefit beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency, as long as:

FDA: Deregulating During The Pandemic, And Beyond – OpEd

The press has obsessively focused on supposed government shortfalls regarding COVID-19 testing. However, virtually no attention has been given to the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) vigorous and unprecedented efforts to ease regulatory requirements during the pandemic.

One such effort involves “immediately in effect” enforcement policies for medical devices that are particularly needed during this health crisis. These detailed policies were issued, beginning in March, pursuant to emergency authority under FDA law.

At the heart of each policy is the statement that FDA “does not intend to object” where specified devices are marketed…

Pandemic helps to change telehealth policy — slowly

Telehealth policy is changing, thanks to COVID-19, but providers worry some changes won’t last.

Regulatory telehealth policy changes enacted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services during the COVID-19 pandemic have greatly impacted telehealth use among providers. Now, healthcare stakeholders want those changes to remain indefinitely.

Healthcare providers and other stakeholders argue that they’ve made significant investment in telehealth platforms to keep serving patients during the pandemic — and that the use of telehealth to care for patients has worked. But…

Massachusetts Adopts Permanent Telehealth Policy for the First Time

Last Thursday, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (BORIM) approved its first permanent telehealth policy. The Board’s policy provides that: (1) a “face-to-face encounter” is not a pre-requisite for a telehealth visit; and (2) the same standard of care applies to both in-person and telehealth encounters. The Board had previously approved this policy on an “interim” basis in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 16, 2020.

This policy is an important step for the Massachusetts BORIM as it had previously hesitated to provide any formal guidance on the…

FCC adds $198M for rural healthcare providers to boost telehealth services

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is adding almost $200 million to a rural healthcare program to help providers buy telecommunications and broadband services.

Rural healthcare providers have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic due to the loss in revenue from canceled or deferred elective procedures and the additional expense of personal protective equipment.

At the same time, telehealth visits have surged as patients seek virtual care options during the pandemic. The Trump administration lowered regulatory barriers for rural areas. Physicians can care for patients at rural facilities across state lines…

Research Shows Telehealth is an Important Tool For Rural Hospitals in Treating COVID-19 Patients

Newswise — Rural hospitals are more likely than urban facilities to have access to telehealth, a once-underused service that now is playing a key role in treating coronavirus patients, according to research by two health administration professors in Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business.

Neeraj Puro, Ph.D., and Scott Feyereisen, Ph.D., say the research can help U.S. hospitals understand the extent to which they are prepared for another wave of the pandemic. The work has been published in The Journal of Rural Health, one of the leading peer-reviewed publications on rural health issues.

FCC Boosts 2020 Telehealth Funding By Almost $200 Million

Anticipating a boost in demand for telehealth funding–its the FCC’s $200 million in new COVID-19-related CARES Act funding is already spoken for–the FCC pointed out Tuesday (June 30) that there is almost that much more available if needed. 

The FCC put out a release saying it was increasing rural health care program funding for 2020, saying there was up to $197.98 million in unspent funds from that Universal Service Fund subsidy that can be used.  

The Wireline Competition Bureau said it had directed the Universal Service Administrative Company, which oversees billions…

Every HIPAA Waiver Has Its Thorn

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

On March 17, 2020, the Office for Civil Rights’ (“OCR”) announced that—for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency—it would exercise enforcement discretion and waive any potential penalties for HIPAA violations relating to health care providers’ use of “everyday communications technologies” in the provision of services via telehealth (the “HIPAA Waiver”). This move has resulted in a drastic increase in the number of telehealth encounters. The HIPAA Waiver has enabled many providers to immediately leverage these technologies to render services via telehealth for the first time, without the need to expend significant…

Hundreds of industry groups call on Congress to advance permanent telehealth reform

Medical associations, health systems, vendors and other stakeholders are asking Senate and House leaders to prioritize four areas when enshrining permanent changes to telemedicine regs.

By Kat JercichJune 30, 2020

Three hundred and forty healthcare organizations published an open letter Monday asking Senate and House leaders to permanently enshrine changes to policies that would make telehealth accessible in the long term.

The groups, which included Healthcare IT News parent company HIMSS and 17 regional HIMSS chapters, the American Telemedicine Association, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, the American Heart Association, the Rural…

FCC Boosts Rural Health Program Funding to Support Telehealth Expansion

The Federal Communications Commission is adding almost $200 million to the Rural Health Care Program, giving providers more resources to expand broadband connectivity to support telehealth and mHealth platforms.

By Eric Wicklund

June 30, 2020 – Federal officials are adding almost $200 million to a fund designed to help rural healthcare providers expand their broadband resources, giving them more opportunities to improve the reach of their telehealth and mHealth platforms.

The Federal Communications Commission announced today that the Universal Service Administrative Company, which oversees the FCC’s Rural Health Care…

Congress introduces bill to makes CARES Act telehealth coverage permanent

The House of Representatives recently introduced the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act, a bill calling for the permanence of telehealth regulations introduced in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Before the pandemic, Medicare beneficiaries could only utilize telehealth services if there was a physician shortage, and this could only be done at a designated “originating site.” If passed, the bill will allow the HHS to waive these requirements beyond the emergency period specified in the CARES Act.

The proposed legislation would also lift restrictions that make…

US Congress faces pressure to maintain telehealth after COVID-19

June 30, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has forced healthcare systems around the world to make greater use of telehealth services during lockdown, and lawmakers in the US want to see if those changes could be permanent.

Representative Robin Kelly (Democrat – Illinois) tabled a bill in the House on at the beginning of the month that would ask the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to study the effects of changes to telehealth caused by COVID-19 on the federal Medicare and Medicaid programmes.

The schemes provide healthcare cover…

Telehealth codes to know

There are numerous coding options when it comes to reporting telehealth visits and others that are not the traditional face-to-face office visit.

There are numerous options when it comes to reporting visits that are not the traditional face-to-face office visit. This varies somewhat by payer, of course.

Medicare has temporarily relaxed some of the geographic and security/privacy restrictions on Telehealth visits – including the office visit codes. This will allow patients to call your office, and as long as there is some type of combined audio/video communication between the provider and…

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