Update: The following article was updated at 4:30 on March 25, to reflect changes to telehealth legislation.
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is a complex, unprecedented, and rapidly evolving health event. To help providers stay updated in this challenging time, we’ve compiled a list of useful resources ranging from health information to legal and governmental updates.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Resources for Providers
The CDC has compiled a page for healthcare professionals during the COVID-19 outbreak, which includes resources such as:
- Guidance and Resources on Healthcare Supply of Personal Protective Equipment
- Interim Guidance for Public Health Personnel Evaluating Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) and Asymptomatic Close Contacts of Confirmed Cases at Their Home or Non-Home Residential Settings
- Reporting a PUI or Laboratory-Confirmed Case for COVID-19
These concise guides are designed to give providers the most up-to-date information available. The CDC also recently released a “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Partner Toolkit.” This resource includes materials for clinicians, Medicare beneficiaries, patients, and other parties.
Additionally, MedPage Today has designed a real-time COVID-19 tracker to monitor worldwide developments.
Information on Updated Telehealth Procedures
Telehealth can help keep patients and providers safe while preserving social distancing. Under emergency updates to telehealth policies, Medicare will now reimburse providers for various telehealth services at the same rate as in-person visits.
Under the legislation, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) relaxes certain requirements. Providers can use personal smartphones or devices. Furthermore, providers can diagnose and treat conditions other than COVID-19, a benefit for patients seeking care or continuing treatment while social distancing.
The update also removes the “originating site” requirement for telehealth, which is the “site where a patient is located at the time health care services are provided via a telecommunications system.” This enables providers and patients to communicate more easily by waiving geographic requirements, allowing patients to televisit from “any healthcare facility and in their home.” Previously, patients were required to be “in a designated rural area and when they leave their home and go to a clinic, hospital, or certain other types of medical facilities for the service.”
Under the 1135 waiver, the patient still “must verbally consent to receive virtual check-in services.” Furthermore, “these services can only be reported when the billing practice has an established relationship with the patient.”
Resources for Patients
Ensuring patients have access to reliable information is critical. People are worried about medical and financial issues related to COVID-19. One poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows 40 percent of Americans say their lives have been disrupted, more than half of workers “are worried they will lose income due,” and 41 percent “worry they will put themselves at risk of coronavirus exposure because they can’t afford to stay home from work.” One way providers can help calm these anxieties is by sharing accurate, helpful information patients can use.
- Diseases can make anyone sick regardless of their race or ethnicity.
- Some people are at increased risk of getting COVID-19.
- People who have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or people who live in or have recently been in an area with ongoing spread are at an increased risk of exposure.
- Someone who has completed quarantine or has been released from isolation does not pose a risk of infection to other people.
- Know what symptoms to look for and when to seek medical advice:
- Shortness of breath
- Seek medical advice if you:
- Develop symptoms
- Have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently been in an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19.
- A list of preventive behaviors for patients:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
If you have a social media presence, that can be an effective way to spread information to patients in a way that complies with social distancing measures. The added benefit of social media sharing is that patients can, in turn, spread trusted and reliable information from healthcare providers with their friends and followers. This can help combat misinformation that can increase fear and anxiety.
Finally, as demand for care continues to increase, many providers are likely to feel the effects of burnout. One useful tool is Headspace, a mindfulness app designed to lower stress. The company has opened up their resources for free to all medical professionals who enter their National Provider Identifier (NPI) and email address.
Is there anything we’ve missed? Please let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to update the article to answer your questions and address your concerns.