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Delivering Telehealth to Rural Communities

The GRHIC has partnered with the Global Partnership for Telehealth (based in Waycross) to provide a telehealth platform to rural Georgia providers at no cost for six months.

On Tuesday, March 17, the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare released new telehealth guidance while the nation is working to combat the COVID-19 emergency. Here is a direct link to the fact sheet released by CMS.gov today.

CMS has broadened access to Medicare telehealth services so beneficiaries can receive care without traveling to a healthcare facility. These changes are in response to the Administration’s Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act and will be in place on a temporary and emergency basis.

Here are some takeaways from the fact sheet:

  • Payment for office, hospital, and other telehealth visits across the country will be retroactive starting March 6, 2020.
  • Telehealth originating sites will include the patient’s home (in addition to previously approved originating sites).
  • This waiver applies to all patients, not just those in rural communities (before this waiver, Medicare would only pay for telehealth when the person receiving the service was in a designated rural area and was receiving telehealthcare at an approved originating site.)
  • HHS is announcing “enforcement discretion” for Medicare telehealth services that they will not conduct audits to ensure a prior relationship existed for claims submitted during this public health emergency. Remember, regularly, patients and providers must have an established relationship before Medicare pays for telehealth visits.
  • Providers include physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurse midwives, certified nurse anesthetists, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, registered dietitians, and nutrition professionals.
  • HIPAA – HHS is “exercising enforcement discretion” and will waive penalties for HIPAA violations against health care providers that serve patients through good faith through “everyday communications technologies, such as FaceTime or Skype.”

While patients and providers can use everyday communications technologies now after the emergency order has been lifted, those will no longer be options for telemedicine. GRHIC partnered with GPT to provide this platform to rural Georgia providers because the platform is HIPAA compliant, easy to use, and does not require special equipment or downloads. A provider using this platform during the emergency order will not have to change its telemedicine process after the order is lifted. It only takes minutes to sign up for the Pathways platform and to schedule your first telehealth appointment.

For information or to sign up for the six-month free platform, contact the Georgia Rural Health Innovation Center at 478-301-4700 or [email protected]