The coronavirus is going to demand more and more medical resources, not only in the U.S but worldwide, so people are going to begin and continue to interact with their clinicians via test messages, online video, or automated systems.
To provide information, CMS https://www.cms.gov recently issued a fact sheet with additional guidance for healthcare providers and patients on the benefits in using telehealth to help all Americans especially patients at high risk of complications from COVID-19.
The fact sheet is part of a broader effort by CMS and the White House Task Force to ensure that all Americans particularly those at high risk of complications from COVID-19 are aware of easy to use accessible benefits. Also, CMS has made virtual check-ins and other services using telecommunications possible with new policies implemented in 2019 and 2020.
Medicare Advantage plans can now provide enrollees access to Medicare Part B services via telehealth in any geographic area and from beneficiaries’ homes as part of their benefit package for a plan year.
Intermountain Healthcare https://intermountainhealthcare.org has expanded Telehealth and Connect Care Services. If individuals are screened by a medical professional, Connect Care visits are conducted via a secure tele-video call between the patient and an Intermountain caregiver.
“Obviously physical exams or testing can’t be done via Connect Care, but we are well equipped to diagnose the patient’s risk for COVID-19” said Kerry Palakanis, Executive Director of Intermountain Connect Care. “We are using screening assessments as suggested by CDC to gauge the risk of the disease. We don’t charge for a screening but can help you find a caregiver if needed.”
Recently announced, Intermountain Healthcare has launched their new online digital tool to help people determine their risk for COVID-19. The tool is an online AI powered tool that is now available to the public on their website. The Intermountain Healthcare COVID-19 “Symptom Checker” uses a friendly AI-powered digital assistant named “Scout” to walk people through key questions related to their symptoms and risk for the virus.
As for Health Insurance Providers, they are encouraging their policyholders to use telehealth and providing members with incentives to initially connect remotely with their doctors. Health Insurance Providers are actively responding to COVID-19 in a number of ways.
- Humana is waiving all telemedicine costs for all urgent care needs for the next 90 days to apply to Humana’s Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and commercial employer-sponsored plans
- Aetna is waiving costs for all virtual visits through their covered Teladoc services and with in-network providers via live video conferencing for three months
- Piedmont Community Health Plan is waving out of pocket costs for telehealth and providing online mental health counseling
- Medica, a non-profit health plan in Minnesota, provides coverage for virtual care for telehealth services where available
Several states have issued statements related to telemedicine/telehealth as pertains to COVID-19. The Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) https://portal.ct.gov/dss is expanding telemedicine coverage for those individuals covered under the HUSKY/Medicaid and the New Jersey Family Care Program https://www.njfamailycare.org that will cover 90 day supplies of prescriptions and encourage providers to use telehealth for routine visits when telehealth options are available.
The California Medical Association (CMA) https://www.cmadocs.org is urging Governor Newsom to address the barriers that physicians are encountering during this public health emergency.
As for using telehealth, CMA is calling for the Governor of California to issue an Executive Order to expedite and expand access to telehealth services to help physician practices manage screening and care while reducing potential exposure and the spread of COVID-19. Physicians in the state, want to implement telehealth but face ongoing barriers to implementation, including uncertainty as to whether public and private health plans will pay for these services.