Telehealth usage is skyrocketing during this COVID-19 pandemic, as the way people interact with each other and their healthcare providers change. The increased demand in remote video technology, or in its absence telephony, for clinical interactions has led to changes in how providers offer patient care, as well as led to changes in reimbursement policies enacted and enforced by the federal government.
A recent Healthcare Finance article discusses how "telehealth is exploding in popularity as a result, and while the mode of care delivery has never had an equal footing with in-person clinical encounters in terms of the way it's reimbursed, patient demand may spur regulatory action to change that."
Telehealth has already been on the rise in the last few years, as insurers have increasingly promoted the capabilities to its members, and patients are seeking flexible means to interacting with their providers. Now as the pandemic has flipped healthcare revenues on its head, providers are on the search for new ways to provide safe clinical interactions. Not only has it provided an opportunity to capture more revenue, telehealth has also helped protect the health of both patients and providers. It prevents clinicians from being infected by COVID-positive patients, as well as protects patients from potentially contracting a hospital-acquired infection of coronavirus during an in-person visit. This is especially of concern for those in high-risk populations due to underlying conditions or due to advanced age.
The article mentions that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has temporarily waived telehealth reimbursement restrictions in part to encourage the use of these services. It concludes that "as long as CMS' telehealth reimbursement waivers are in place, hospitals can lean on the technology to replace some of their lost income and open up new revenue streams. But the coronavirus' reign will end one day, and when that day comes, many hospitals -- and patients -- will want remote care to remain a staple of U.S. healthcare."
According to AAPC, CMS is waiving limitations on the types of clinical practitioners who can furnish Medicare telehealth services for the duration of the COVID-19 PHE. Prior to this change, telehealth services were limited to doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and others who also qualified to furnish evaluation and management (E/M) services. Now, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech language pathologists can bill for telehealth too.
Aviacode employs a number of AAPC or AHIMA certified coders at the ready who are experienced in telehealth coding, along with growth areas such as ED and inpatient coding, during this pandemic and beyond. Their skills enable providers to seek the proper reimbursements.