May 12, 2020
CMS Approves Therapy Telehealth Services

Medicare recipients can now receive virtual rehabilitation services

SpecialtyRx breaks down the reasons behind CMS’s big move

 
Over the past two months, the Trump administration has made historic efforts to support healthcare providers through the COVID-19 crisis. By now, we understand that older Americans—especially those with underlying medical conditions—are among the nation’s most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Nursing home residents are also at greater risk due to the revolving-door nature of the care setting. When clinical practitioners come and go frequently, they expose the entire facility population to potential danger.

 
A vote for flexibility
Now, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services are finally responding to this COVID-19-related challenge. As part of a second wave of regulatory changes, federal leaders just announced that therapy providers may now deliver services through telehealth.

 
Before, CMS only allowed for certain healthcare workers to provide care virtually. Effective immediately, the waiver expands Medicare flexibility so that physical, occupational and speech therapists may offer telehealth services. For seniors living at home or in long-term care facilities, the news is having a therapeutic effect.
 


The new reality: virtual

The telehealth measure will not only limit facility foot traffic, which is key to containing the spread of coronavirus. It will also help nursing home residents receive the kind of care that directly promotes health and enhances quality of life. Federal social distancing guidelines officially expired on March 30th, but many states will be slow to open. Seniors who have been deprived of physical and social contact will benefit greatly from virtual care.
 

Patient advocates also celebrated the CMS decision. In reference to the measure, Cynthia Morton of the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care said, “We are optimistic this new ability is for all settings where therapists practice and we sure hope it’s for the setting that needs it most—and that is the patients in nursing facilities.”
 
SpecialtyRx encourages its partners to explore new approaches to PT, OT and ST via telehealth. By loosening up on Medicare restrictions, CMS has opened up a world of possibility for our nation’s most deserving patients.