CMS approves telehealth for Medicaid 'face-to-face' visits

Jeff Rowe
CMS approves telehealth for Medicaid 'face-to-face' visits

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently published a final rule that clarifies the requirements for face-to-face encounters for Medicaid beneficiaries to be eligible to receive home health services. The rule states that telehealth can be used for such encounters, but it doesn’t specify a definition for “telehealth.” 

In responses to public comments, the agency said it would defer to state definitions of telehealth but did not mean for phone calls or emails to suffice. Thorough guidelines on telehealth from CMS, it added, are forthcoming. 

Currently, the agency said, ”telehealth and telemedicine are service delivery modalities that have very specific protocols that ensure quality patient care, and do not include all electronic communication. . . . In the absence of specific Medicaid statutory requirements, we are hesitant to proscribe the locations and/or technologies that states may use to meet the face-to-face requirement through telehealth.

"Under Medicaid policy, states have the flexibility to define coverage of telehealth, including what types of telehealth to cover; where in the state it can be covered; and how it is provided. Our expectation is that care delivered using various technologies will lead to good outcomes and meet the needs of individuals while adhering to privacy requirements, including the requirements under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.”

In addition, according to FierceHealthIT, “In a letter sent Jan. 19 to Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Director Richard Kronick, Ph.D., the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society and the Personal Connected Health Alliance urged the organization to consider conducting additional studies that provide more data on the benefits of telehealth and remote patient monitoring.”