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COVID-19: Frequently asked clinical questions


 

Dr. Skolnik is professor of family and community medicine at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, and associate director of the family medicine residency program at Abington (Pa.) Jefferson Health.

Dr. Neil Skolnik

Question

Can physicians use telehealth (phone only or audiovisual) to conduct visits with Medicare patients even if they are new patients?

Answer

Effective March 1 through the duration of the pandemic, Medicare will pay physicians for telehealth services at the same rate as an in-office visit. On March 30th, the Centers for Medicare & Medcaid Services announced new policies for physicians and hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. These guidelines were updated on April 9.

Audio-only visits are now permitted and the limit on the number of these kinds of visits allowed per month has been waived. Controlled substances can be prescribed via telehealth; however, complying with each state’s individual laws is still required.

Use of any two-way, audiovisual device is permitted. The level of service billed for visits with both audio and visual components is the same as an in-office visit. Telemedicine can be used for both new and existing patients.5

A list of services that may be rendered via telehealth are available on the CMS website.6

It will be important to regularly check the references given, as information on some of these topics is updated frequently.

Dr. Chuong is a second-year resident in the family medicine residency, Dr. Flanagan is a third-year resident, and Dr. Matthews is an intern, all at Abington (Pa.) Jefferson Health. Dr. Skolnik is professor of family and community medicine at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, and associate director of the family medicine residency program at Abington (Pa.) Jefferson Health.

References

1. ACR issues COVID-19 treatment guidance for rheumatic disease patients.

2. American Academy of Dermatology: Guidance on the use of biologic agents during COVID-19 outbreak.

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Actions to take in response to community transmission of COVID-19.

4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maintaining childhood immunizations during COVID19 pandemic.

5. Centers for Medicare & Medcaid Services. COVID-19 frequently asked questions (FAQs) on Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) billing.

6. Centers for Medicare & Medcaid Services. List of telehealth services.

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