Home Health agencies can satisfy the statutory requirement that a patient must have a face-to-face encounter, by using telecommunication technology.

Sharon Hamilton MS, RN, CFDS
Clinical Consultant, Briggs Healthcare

The new waiver in Section 1135(b) of the Social Security Act explicitly allows the Secretary to authorize use of telephones that have audio and video capabilities for the furnishing of Medicare telehealth services during the COVID-19 PHE.

In addition, effective immediately, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) will exercise enforcement discretion and waive penalties for HIPAA violations against health care providers that serve patients in good faith through everyday communications technologies, such as FaceTime or Skype, during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. CMS allows for the use of devices that have audio and video capabilities. The devices used for two-way, real-time interactive communication with a physician or an allowed non-physician practitioner in order to qualify for Medicare home health services.

There is no doubt that COVID 19 is causing the biggest operational disruption ever experienced by all medical providers. Unexpectedly, for those of us in home health that have audited charts to find acceptable Face to Face documentation this situation may realize an unexpected benefit in the future. But for now, agencies will need to create policies and procedures and educate their staff to the changes under the new waiver.

For more information about the new waiver and Medicare beneficiary eligibility for home health click on the following links:

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/emergency-preparedness/index.html

https://edit.cms.gov/files/document/medicare-telehealth-frequently-asked-questions-faqs31720.pdf

https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Medicare-Learning-Network-MLN/MLNMattersArticles/Downloads/SE1436.pdf