HIPAA Waiver Offers Physicians Opportunity To Engage Patients In New Ways, But Documentation Is Key

The HIPAA waiver issued for telemedicine during COVID-19 is a game-changer for physicians now that CMS says virtual visits are reimbursable.

And now, telehealth is emerging as an effective and sustainable solution for precaution, prevention, and treatment to stem the spread of COVIS-19. But what do the new HIPAA waiver and CMS rule about telemedicine during COVID-19 mean?

According to Dr. Neil Baum, chief medical advisor at Vanguard Communications, professor of Clinical Urology at Tulane Medical School, and in clinical practice for 40+ years, the glass is half full.

“Telemedicine is a great opportunity for us to fill our glass and engage our patients in a way we never have before. We’re still able to practice good medicine without having to be face to face or touching a patient,” says Dr. Baum.

Telehealth is bridging the gap between people, physicians, and health systems, enabling everyone, primarily symptomatic patients, to stay at home and communicate with physicians through virtual channels, helping to reduce the spread of the virus to mass populations and the medical staff on the frontlines.

For healthcare professionals, this news means that CMS now allows providers to be reimbursed for the vast majority of virtual visits using telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Only a small number qualified for reimbursements as recently as March 14.)

Plus, no special software or extra expense for healthcare-specific hardware and software is needed. The tools are free and easy to use.

Below is a chart of the popular apps approved for telemedicine during COVID-19.

Dr. Baum says telemedicine will go a long way to enhancing a physician’s connection with patients and providing access to care but stresses the importance of documenting virtual visits and video conversations just as you would an in-office appointment.

“If you didn’t document, then you didn’t do it, and then you don’t get paid for it,” says Dr. Baum.

He offers these tips to physicians for documenting.

Documenting Tips for Video and Phone chats

— Access EMR online from home

— Write down everything

— Use a third person to conference in, record the visit, and input data in EMR

Remember, providers will not be reimbursed without documentation. Be sure to include:

— Date & time

— Length of conversation

— Provider recommendations

— Proper coding

— Submit through EHR

Dr. Baum says using telemedicine during COVID-19 offers benefits, limitations, burdens, and adaptations.

But telemedicine provides doctors with the opportunity to foster reactions with their patients for providing excellent care. “The glass is half full, so be careful because the edges can be sharp,” says Dr. Baum.

Watch a replay of Dr. Baum in the ‘How to use popular apps for telemedicine during COVID-19’ webinar at covidtelemedicine.com.


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