Coronavirus (COVID-19) Driving IT Considerations

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March 24, 2020

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Telehealth Services

As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, CMS has announced that they are expanding telehealth Medicare coverage to nursing home beneficiaries and others as part of their strategy to address the crisis by leveraging technology. The idea is that providers can use chatbots, secure messaging, and video visits to conduct initial screening and triage of patients who may be infected.

“…with the emergence of the virus causing the disease COVID-19, there is an urgency to expand the use of technology to help people who need routine care, and keep vulnerable beneficiaries and beneficiaries with mild symptoms in their homes while maintaining access to the care they need.”  - CMS.gov

Even before this latest expansion Medicare had started paying for virtual care items including Virtual Check-Ins and E-Visits in 2019. Virtual Check-Ins, are defined as short patient-initiated communications with a healthcare practitioner, while E-visits are non-face-to-face patient-initiated communications through an online patient portal. Telehealth includes

“Telehealth, telemedicine, and related terms generally refer to the exchange of medical information from one site to another through electronic communication to improve a patient’s health. Innovative uses of this kind of technology in the provision of healthcare is increasing.” – CMS.gov 

The new expanded coverage started on March 6, 2020 so your organization may be eligible to receive reimbursement from Medicare if your use of telehealth meets the criteria. Learn more details of the CMS announcement and what is covered by reading this article at CMS.gov.

Remote Workforce

Another byproduct of the current crisis is a huge spike in work from home or remote working to combat the spread of the highly contagious virus. In healthcare situations PHI information means that a secure connection to EHR and eMAR systems as well as other software applications and databases is absolutely necessary. This means maintaining secure VPN access for your employees as well as ensuring remote users devices (mobile or other) are securely managed to protect from network breaches or data theft.

Furthermore, remote working can put stress on network bandwidth, infrastructure, and application speeds. From an IT network perspective this means having a high bandwidth connection and an efficient, modern network architecture to allow team members to effectively work from home.

The current crisis is further highlighting the need for robust remote-access networks. This crisis has even resulted in the government granting T-Mobile temporary access to spectrum in the 600MHz band that’s owned by others. Another reality that this crisis will point out is that the performance of your cloud-based applications is highly dependent on the quality of your internet service provider as well as the quality of your hosted applications and data provider.

Digital Tools and Apps

Many free platforms and apps are available, especially during this crisis, to enable telemedicine and you may already have the capability to do so. For starters you can check with your current EHR provider to see if they offer telemedicine capabilities or have a partner for this.

To facilitate your team members who are working remotely remote Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Google Duo, are a few of the applications that you may already have available to you.  

LTPAC technology experts

The increased use of telehealth services on top of the growing need to support a remote workforce means your IT systems and network infrastructure are more critical than ever to both resident care and business operations.

Contact vcpi to discuss how we can help you address both of these side-effects with our LTAPC focused technology expertise and suite of IT managed services that can be tailored to your organization’s unique needs.   

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