- On Thursday, CMS announced a final rule for Medicaid patients that requires physicians to document face-to-face visits prior to ordering home health services, MobiHealthNews reported. The rule had already applied to Medicare patients.
- Face-to-face encounters can be performed through the use of telehealth, the rule clarified.
- In related news, CMS also launched their first ever patient experience of care star ratings, known as Health Care Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), which evaluate patients' experiences with home health agencies.
"We recognize that some individuals may have difficulty meeting the face-to-face requirement," CMS stated. "We believe we have accounted for these circumstances while meeting statutory requirements, by extending the timeframe of the face-to-face encounter to 30 days after the start of home health services, by allowing for NPPs to complete the face-to-face encounter, and by encouraging telehealth as an alternative for ensuring that this new requirement is implemented in a way that protects continuity of services."
According to CMS, allowing telehealth to be used as an alternative to face-to-face encounter means that the provider will be able to use phones, emails or other telecommunications to contact the beneficiary and meet the face-to-face requirements.
CMS stated they would offer technical assistance to state Medicaid agencies on using telehealth so the requirement can be implemented while protecting continuity of services.
The new rule, effective July 1, does not make telehealth or transportation for face-to-face visits reimbursable by Medicaid. But states may choose to factor in the requirement into physicians' payment rates or have separate ones that specifically apply to telehealth.
For the new HCAHPS Survey star ratings report on patients experiences with home health agencies, the following ratings for each home health agency can also be viewed on the CMS website:
- Care of patients;
- Communication between providers and patients;
- Specific care issues;
- Overall rating of care provided by the home health agency; and
- Survey summary star rating.