El Camino Health made quick and effective use of these provisions to provide needed care and consultation as the pandemic heightened. And now, telehealth services will continue as the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 with extended and expanded telehealth provisions under Medicare until December 31, 2024.
Major telehealth provisions in the recently passed omnibus include:
- Expanding originating site to include any site at which the patient is located, including the patient's home
- Expanding the list of practitioners who can provide telehealth services
- Extending the ability for federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and rural health clinics (RHCs) to furnish telehealth services
- Delaying the in-person visit requirement before a patient receives mental health services through telehealth
- Allowing audio-only telehealth services
- Allowing telehealth to be used for recertification of patients' hospice eligibility
"Telehealth has given us a safer environment for our patients and care teams, as symptomatic patients can often receive care without leaving home," says Nicole Silva, Chief Operating Officer of El Camino Health Medical Network. "Patients are happy to convert their appointments to virtual video visits during bad weather, and it helps patients with other commitments like dependent care and work."
There have been challenges, as with any big transition — bad connections, technical problems and times when the pandemic prevented in-person examinations that would have been preferable. Overall, however, the benefits have been significant.
"For El Camino Health, it's been helpful to retain patient visits when they otherwise may not have opted to come in, and it keeps our waiting areas safer when we can encourage patients with certain symptoms to stay home," Silva says.
Telehealth nationwide has become a vital resource in recent years and expanded significantly in response to the pandemic. With this recent legislation, progress in technology, delivery and application of telehealth is likely to pick up speed, and El Camino Health is committed to its effective and appropriate use.
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