Medicare Expands Coverage for Telehealth Visits

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senior takes blood pressure with doctor online

Telehealth visits are becoming increasingly popular in the midst of COVID-19. The safety and convenience of speaking with a medical provider from the comfort of your own living room has many patients signing up for virtual appointments.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in early March 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have worked to make telehealth services covered by individuals on Medicare or Medicaid. The latest ruling, as of August 2020, allows 11 new services, making more than 145 telehealth types of visits covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

Expanded coverage allows more individuals – including older Americans who may be at higher risk of complications from COVID-19 – to safely access the health care they need to stay healthy and well. Covered virtual care services range from annual wellness exams to cardiac rehabilitation, emergency room visits to nursing home visits, and much more.

“Emory wanted to ensure that patients had access to their physicians during the early days of the pandemic, when in-person visits were reduced,” said Greg Esper, MD, MBA, associate chief medical officer for Emory Healthcare and medical director of telehealth. “Now, we are identifying ways to use telehealth for the patient’s overall care journey to improve access and quality, especially for patients with chronic conditions.”

Popularity Soars for Telehealth Care

Doctors’ offices, hospitals and medical centers across the country have reported increased demand for telehealth visits. In fact, CMS found that more than 12.1 million beneficiaries (36 percent of people in traditional Medicare) utilized their telehealth benefit to meet with a provider. Telehealth services are equally as popular for individuals with Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage. Telehealth visits were up 2,632 percent in March-June 2020 compared to the same time frame the previous year.

At Emory, we’re meeting that demand with telehealth services across nearly every specialty, including primary care, urgent care, women’s health, orthopaedics and much more.

“We have been able to provide telehealth services to almost 350,000 patients, with almost 135,000 encounters for Medicare beneficiaries and over 17,000 encounters for Medicaid beneficiaries,” said Dr. Greg Esper.

Staying Connected with Telehealth at Emory

Telehealth allows you to stay up to date on wellness exams, follow-up appointments and even ill visits. You can check in with your doctor, get prescriptions refilled, share any new concerns and provide updates on how you’re doing with your health and wellness.

Emory Connected Care, our telehealth service, is making it as easy as possible to see your provider whenever you need to. Here’s what you can expect with your virtual visit – and all you need is a phone, tablet or laptop with a camera:

  • You’ll receive step-by-step instructions prior to your appointment on how to log in to our secure network. A member of your provider’s staff may also call you before your appointment to make sure you have the information you need and know what to do to meet with your doctor.
  • During your appointment, your doctor will ask you about any new or worsening symptoms, new medical history, and offer the opportunity for you to share any questions, concerns or updates about your health.
  • Your provider will also conduct a physical exam (you’ll be surprised at how much you can do over a virtual visit!). They may ask you to take your pulse or blood pressure or ask you to do specific tasks to assess injuries.

After your exam, you and your provider will create a plan that will help keep you healthy and well and review the next steps for your care. Don’t let the fear or uncertainty of COVID-19 stop you from getting the medical care you need. Emory Connected Care services are convenient, secure and effective. For more information about our telehealth services, visit our website.