Telehealth Uptake Opportunities and Solutions: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded the list of services that can be provided by telehealth during the public health emergency to include emergency department visits, initial nursing facility and discharge visits, and home visits. It also developed a number of
telehealth toolkits to support providers. ASPR released
behavioral health-specific telehealth guidance and
recommendations for using 911 during telehealth sessions if clients need immediate care. The
HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has indicated that covered health care providers may use popular applications for video chat such as Facetime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts, Zoom or Skype to provide telehealth without risk of federal penalties for noncompliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) during the COVID-19 emergency. These flexibilities when coupled with reimbursement waivers can pave the way for continued utilization of telehealth.
While telehealth can provide increased access to health care, not all telehealth is accessible for those in most need. Telehealth solutions should be evaluated to meet an individual’s functional and cognitive needs. Promising practices are emerging such as integrating American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for the deaf and hard of hearing with virtual platforms, but more work is needed. Additional barriers in certain geographic regions include lack of access to broadband and internet connections.
State, regional, and local
Health Information Exchanges Organizations (HIEs) or community information exchanges (CIEs) may serve as a resource for CBOs wanting more information about individuals they are supporting through telehealth. These organizations support health care and community-based organizations seeking to coordinate care by working within communities to promote secure electronic exchange of medical, behavioral and social service information. Examples of services that may be available include alerts (e.g. admission, discharge, transfer notifications), e-referral services, and secure health information exchanges. CBOs can consider exploring HIE and CIE services in their geographic area for opportunities to engage.
As CBOs resume operations, it is important to consider the real possibility that clients may want to continue utilizing telehealth services after the pandemic has passed, and that they may have difficulty doing so given limited access to broadband and internet services. This is particularly true in rural areas. CBOs may want to consider communicating with their clients about the continued use of (or options for) remote telehealth services. CBOs can alert clients to low-cost broadband and internet service opportunities like the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC)
Lifeline Program in order for clients to more easily maintain the use of telehealth services.