Telehealth is a perfect tool for social distancing because it keeps people at home, helping to stop the spread of the coronavirus and saving lives. Under the administration’s emergency waivers, Medicare can pay for office, hospital, and other visits furnished via telehealth across the country for all beneficiaries. It also allows providers to forward videos and images to other doctors, known as “store and forward.” Telehealth has proven very popular with Medicare beneficiaries, with one CMS data analyst reporting telehealth visits for Medicare beneficiaries went from about 10,000 a week to 300,000 as of the last week in March.
PROFESSIONAL LICENSING - In response to hospitals in hard hit areas resorting to retirees and medical students to fill gaps, CMS relaxed a variety of guidelines regulating how physicians, nurse practitioners, and occupational therapists can do their jobs. Under the relaxed guidance, clinicians can now practice at the top of their licenses and across state lines. Automatic licensing recognition would be a godsend for patients and could help to ease local physician and nurse shortages.
PHYSICIAN SUPERVISION - Cutting out non-essential physician supervision and signoff requirements – for example, a requirement that mandates that a physician (as opposed to a nurse or physician assistant) must physically order home health services, sign the patient’s plan of care, and/or re-certify that the patient is eligible for services – can be counterproductive in a critical situation like a viral pandemic.
PATIENT PRIVACY - The Department of Health and Human Services’ current policy allows for more software platforms to be used in providerpatient communication, which would be otherwise prohibited by HIPAA. This is helping more patients get access to effective tracing, testing, and treatment.