The COVID-19 pandemic brought many challenges upon home health agencies, from staff and patients that got sick, to new regulations that impaired in-person visitation of patients and loved ones. One thing that we learned, however, was that patient care never ceased thanks to telehealth/telecommunication technologies. Even through a time of uncertainty, agencies were still able to meet the needs of patients through virtual visits. What does this mean for the future of telehealth technologies for home health agencies?
Even though the world saw the advantages of telehealth communication technology, not all agencies utilized it. Not only is it an expensive technology, there is currently no monetary incentive for agencies to use it. This is because Medicare does not reimburse home health agencies for virtual visits in the same way they do for in-person visits. However, there’s a chance this may change in the near future thanks to the Health Emergency Access to Telehealth (HEAT) Act.
Health Emergency Access to Telehealth (HEAT) Act
The HEAT Act is a bipartisan bill first introduced to Congress on October 23rd, 2020 to provide Medicare reimbursements for telehealth services used by home health agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The same bill was reintroduced to the Senate on April 23rd, 2021 with a change. The bill grants CMS authority to issue a waiver that would allow for telehealth visits to count towards in-person visits as included on the plan of care in the event of a public health emergency.
Many industry leaders believe this bill to be a step in the right direction in terms of fully utilizing all resources to meet the needs of patients. “The Covid-19 pandemic has firmly demonstrated the value of telehealth as a tool to meet the clinical needs of home health patients,” NAHC President, Bill Dombi said in an interview with Home Healthcare News. “However, with the absence of any reimbursement for telehealth, home health agencies have not had the ability to make full use of it. The HEAT Act is a big step forward in modernizing the Medicare home health benefit,” said Dombi.
If the HEAT act gets signed into law, it could open a door for home health agencies to fully utilize innovative telehealth technologies to meet the needs of their patients during a global crisis. If the last couple years have taught people anything, it’s that anything can happen at any scale, and patient care can never stop because of it.
Join the Fight for Telehealth Reimbursement – NAHC Advocacy
Join NAHC Advocacy by telling Congress to provide reimbursement for telehealth services here: https://p2a.co/lYv8A41
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