Telemedicine is the Boon In The Fight Against Coronavirus!

Kunal JainIT Services in Medical Office

The Coronavirus outbreak is leading to a surge in the adoption of telemedicine. Are you ready for this next wave of medical technology implementation?

Coronavirus is on everybody’s mind – that’s a fair summation of the way this virus has invaded our bodies, and more importantly, our lives. The doomsayers believe the coronavirus outbreak will bring our cities to a grinding halt. The panic amongst the general public is quite evident; there have been reports of shoppers stocking crates with household supplies, and people having fistfights over items like toilet paper. As the government and the world healthcare industry try to tackle the spread of the virus, there is a technology revolution sweeping the healthcare industry that will forever change the way we offer medical care. That change is the adoption of telemedicine. 

Telemedicine in the U.S.

Telehealth or telemedicine or virtual visits includes all virtual video consultations with a physician over a telemedicine application or through other real-time video applications such as FaceTime and Skype. Although Telehealth is not a new concept in the U.S, the use has been restricted by the conditions under which physicians could bill Telehealth calls under Medicare.  For instance, you could charge Telehealth only for patients who lived in non-urban areas or in regions with a shortage of healthcare professionals. With the latest update, they have lifted this rule and it is acceptable all around in the USA including urban areas. 

COVID-19 regulatory alert: Medicare telehealth restrictions lifted

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the national emergency declared by President Trump, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued renewed conditions for medical billing of telehealth calls.

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance on Secretary Azar’s waiver authority that broadens access to Medicare telehealth services. Effective March 6, 2020 and for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, CMS will:

  • Waive geographic restrictions, meaning patients can receive telehealth services in non-rural areas;
  • Waive originating site restrictions, meaning patients can receive telehealth services in their home;
  • Allow use of telephones that have audio and video capabilities; 
  • Allow reimbursement for any telehealth covered code, even if unrelated to COVID-19 diagnosis, screening, or treatment; and Not enforce the established relationship requires that a patient see a provider within the last three years.

Here are some useful resources –

The Medicare telemedicine healthcare provider fact sheet.

The Medicare FAQ on these telehealth waivers  

The Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications During the COVID-19 emergency.

The most important information for billing to Medicare is the Place of service which should be 02 in-office consults along with modifier 95

If you don’t know your EMR has the Telemedicine capabilities or not then use this service www.doxy.me

Advantages of Telemedicine for Tackling Coronavirus

In the absence of a specific cure for coronavirus, restricting human contact is crucial to containing the spread. For healthcare practitioners, who are at a higher risk of exposure to coronavirus, telemedicine can prove to be a real boon. 

  • Firstly, telemedicine allows physicians to see more patients (as more people with flu-like symptoms seek to speak to a doctor). 
  • Secondly, telemedicine gives doctors and nurses the ability to triage patients who may be at a higher risk of having contracted the virus, without exposing themselves or other people at the doctor’s office. 
  • Thirdly, telemedicine allows the treatment of vulnerable patients (e.g., people with preexisting health conditions) at home, without exposing them to the risk of contracting coronavirus.

Telemedicine Poised for Exponential Growth

Telemedicine services have seen exponential growth over the last five years. It’s estimated that the global telemedicine market will hit $130B by 2025. But the concerns around reimbursements and clinical appropriateness have meant that only a small percentage of U.S physicians currently offer telemedicine services.  However, with the easing of restrictions in Medicare telehealth billing and the advantages of telemedicine in the face of pandemics like coronavirus, this technology will be a must-have service for every physician practice, regardless of size and location of providers. 

As a brick-and-mortar medical service provider, you must understand and follow the current CDC guidelines on handling the CONVOID 19 crisis and the opportunity that telemedicine presents in providing patients with safer, more affordable, and more inclusive care. For more information on Telehealth benefits in the Medicare program, read the CMS.GOV fact sheet.

PracticeForces is a frontier medical billing company in Florida. We have partnered with AdvancedMD and eClinicalWorks, both of which offer telemedicine services. If you would like to implement telemedicine services for your practice, we would be happy to help. Contact us today for a FREE-consult.