President Trump recently announced that telehealth services will be expanded to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Medicare now covers telehealth and this means providers will be reimbursed the same way they are for in-person consultations. Communicating with one’s provider virtually allows patients to avoid office or hospital visits, where they are more susceptible to the virus.
Effects on Medicare
Elderly patients are at a higher risk of contracting the virus, therefore it is of the utmost importance that they are able to stay home as long as they can. Providing virtual communication with their doctors is the simplest way to ensure they are not being unnecessarily exposed to the virus. An emergency declaration through the Stafford Act allows Medicare coverage to include virtual health services. Virtual check-in, e-visits, and Medicare telehealth visits are now covered by Medicare.
Patients can check in on their provider’s website and submit symptoms and images to the provider. From there, providers can offer their recommendations to these patients.
This form of communication is not face-to-face with the provider. Rather, these visits are conducted through the patient portal on a provider’s website. This is an instant messaging system that allows patients to ask questions or explain their symptoms. From here, the provider will determine whether the patient needs a virtual follow-up or must be seen in-person.
Medicare Telehealth Visits
Using audio or video telehealth tools for services patients would normally receive in-office, an actual provider, not a robot, can communicate with their patients. Patients can relay symptoms and providers will be able to make an informed decision on whether or not a patient should be seen in the office. Not only does this help limit the spread of the virus, but it also keeps clinics and hospitals from being overwhelmed by a swarm of non-life threatening cases.
These services are a great way to keep healthy patients away from those who have the virus; those who are quarantined with the virus also have the option of updating their doctor virtually, lessening the spread of the virus.
Telehealth was not originally covered by Medicare, as it wasn’t an urgent need. However, the new Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act aims to make these services more accessible during the outbreak. CMS Administrator Seema Verma stated, “The Trump Administration is taking swift and bold action to give patients greater access to care through telehealth during the COVID-19 outbreak.” While we hope everyone is receiving the care they need, this change will be very beneficial to those most at risk: seniors. During this crisis, anyone exhibiting symptoms should consult their provider before getting tested. Avoid going to public places or gathering in large groups, and focus on maintaining your health.
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