New Medicare guidelines allow seniors access to virtual doctor visits

Physicians can receive Medicare payments for using telecommunications such as audio or video with patients, according to new guidelines from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The proposal will alleviate some of the strain on elderly beneficiaries with transportation challenges, said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. Some of the biggest winners could be rural or otherwise isolated long-term care providers and their beneficiaries, experts noted.

"Under this proposal, Medicare will start paying for virtual check-ins, meaning patients can connect with their doctor by phone or video chat," Verma said during a phone conference call last week. "Many times this type of check-in will resolve patient concerns in a convenient manner that gets them the care that they need and avoids unnecessary cost to the system.”

Additionally, CMS is offering to pay clinicians for evaluation of patient-submitted photos.

The proposals, which fall under the Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program, also make changes to quality reporting requirements. These would include information-sharing among providers electronically, CMS said, as well as support greater EHR interoperability.



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