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What is Telehealth, Telemedicine and Telepsychiatry:

Telehealth or telemedicine is an all-encompassing term for the delivery of healthcare treatments through the use of modern telecommunication technologies. Other terminologies are also used to describe these services which deliver care from distance. For medical specialties like behavioral health, the term Telepsychiatry is used to describe these services. This technology can provide a variety of services ranging from psychiatric evaluations, medication management, therapy and patient education.

Telehealth services rely on internet-based, teleconferencing technologies to deliver healthcare services over a distance. This distance could be across town, or across the country. Just so the healthcare provider and patient can maintain a video and audio connection that enables communication. Telehealth technology can even be used to record medical information and sending the healthcare data to another site.

Medical services like telepsychiatry, and telehealth services in general, hold the promise of reducing medical costs while simultaneously expanding access to healthcare. Beyond access and cost, the quality of services delivered also needs to be maintained. Though, historically, it is challenging to reduce costs while maximizing access and quality.

In response to the Coronavirus outbreak, the federal government has temporary relaxed HIPAA requirements for healthcare services. This reduction of HIPAA regulations has provided a boost for the delivery of telemedical services. More healthcare professionals can now deliver services to a greater number of patients.

Medicare Benefits and Telehealth Services:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have expanded access to Medicare’s telehealth services. The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act allows Medicare beneficiaries to receive a greater range of medical services from physicians and other healthcare professionals, through the use of telehealth/telemedical services.

Previously, Medicare would only reimburse healthcare providers for telehealth treatments if the services were delivered under specific circumstances. This meant that patients usually had to travel to what Medicare calls an originating site in order to receive telemedicine services. Individuals could typically not receive services in the comfort of their own home.

These earlier telehealth rules have been suspended by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for a specific reason. The broadening of access to Medicare’s medical services allows beneficiaries to receive treatments without having to travel to a facility or center.

The altering of Medicare’s telehealth rules is in response to the rapid spread of Coronavirus among the U.S. population. As a way to minimize the spreading of the virus, the CMS is encouraging the use of teleconferencing technologies. By allowing patients to receive treatments from their homes, both patients and medical staff will face less exposure and chances of contracting the virus.

In March, Medicare officially implemented an expansion of telehealth services with the 1135 waiver. This policy allows Medicare to pay for medical services that are delivered using telehealth technologies, including receiving services in a patient’s home. Previously, individuals were required to travel to a designated location in order to receive healthcare treatments.

In order to alleviate potential cash flow for healthcare providers and suppliers, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has expanded its Accelerated and Advance Payment Program. The program has been expanded to include a larger number of Medicare Part A providers as well as Part B suppliers. This CMS program is designed to last only as long as there is a public health emergency. The accelerated or advance payments are intended to provide necessary reimbursements during periods when claims submission and processing are disrupted.

Using Telehealth Technology & Potential Growth:

The expansion of technological interfaces in the U.S. healthcare system, health professionals need to increase their technological fluency. Delivering medical services via teleconferences require clinicians to switch between a variety of interfaces, ranging from EHRs, patient management as well as telehealth interfaces.

The growth of telehealth services will also likely provide opportunities to tech-based companies like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc. All of these corporations have been expanding their products and services in the healthcare industry. These corporations are already providing data security and clinical informatics. Moving into telemedicine is a good fit for their companies.

Even retailers like Walmart have moved into the healthcare marketplace. They are well-positioned to also role out a version of telehealth via teleconferencing technology.

About ABCS RCM:

As a company that specializes in revenue cycle management for healthcare providers, we are closely monitoring this process. Telehealth services will likely have a permanent place in the medical profession. Advanced Billing & Consulting Services provides experienced medical billing and credentialing services, which includes processing telehealth medical claims. For more information on this topic call us at 614-890-9822 or email us.

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