WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed changes as part of the Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program that would update Medicare payment policies to promote access to virtual care.
The changes would establish Medicare payment for when beneficiaries connect with their doctor virtually using telecommunications technology to determine whether or not they need an in-person visit.
“CMS is committed to modernizing the Medicare program by leveraging technologies, such as audio/video applications or patient-facing health portals, that will help beneficiaries access high-quality services in a convenient manner,” said Seema Verma, CMS Administrator, in a statement.
Provisions in the proposed CY 2019 Physician Fee Schedule would support access to care using telecommunications technology by:
- Paying clinicians for virtual check-ins;
- Paying clinicians for evaluation of patient-submitted photos; and
- Expanding Medicare-covered telehealth services to include prolonged preventive services.
The proposed changes would also increase the amount of time that doctors and other clinicians can spend with their patients by reducing the burden of paperwork that they face when billing Medicare.
“Today’s proposals deliver on the pledge to put patients over paperwork by enabling doctors to spend more time with their patients,” Verma said. “Physicians tell us they continue to struggle with excessive regulatory requirements and unnecessary paperwork that steal time from patient care. The proposed changes address those problems head-on, by streamlining documentation requirements to focus on patient care and by modernizing payment policies so seniors and others covered by Medicare can take advantage of the latest technologies to get the quality care they need.”
Additionally, the proposed changes would encourage information sharing among health care providers electronically, so patients can see various medical professionals based on their needs, while knowing that their updated medical records will follow them through the health care system.
The QPP proposal would also make changes to the Merit-based Incentive Payment System “Promoting Interoperability” performance category to support greater EHR interoperability and patient access to their health information, as well as align this clinician program with the proposed new “Promoting Interoperability” program for hospitals.
Verma said removing unnecessary paperwork requirements through the PFS proposal would save individual clinicians an estimated 51 hours per year if 40% of their patients are on Medicare. Changes in the QPP proposal would collectively save clinicians an estimated 29,305 hours and approximately $2.6 million in reduced administrative costs in 2019.
Public comments on the proposed rules are due by September 10, 2018.