Central Florida providers react to expansion of telehealth amid coronavirus pandemic

White House orders telehealth services for all Medicare benificaries

ORLANDO, Fla. – As the coronavirus continues to make its way across the country, government leaders are not only looking for ways to stop its spread, but also coming up with solutions that will free up space in hospitals and doctors’ offices for those who need it the most.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump alongside the coronavirus task force addressed the public once again cautioning them to avoid large gatherings and suggested staying inside as much as possible.

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Seema Verma, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, announced that in an effort to keep those who are most at risk for contracting the respiratory illness at home, telehealth services are being expanded to all Medicare beneficiaries.

“These changes allow seniors to communicate with their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility so that they can limit risk of exposure and spread of this virus. Clinicians on the frontlines will now have greater flexibility to safely treat our beneficiaries,” Verma said.

Prior to the declaration, Medicare would only cover telehealth services under certain circumstances, including when a beneficiary lives in a rural area, making it difficult for them to get to a healthcare provider in person.

The government is also relaxing HIPAA requirements so doctors can provide telehealth services on their personal phones.

Verma said family members should help seniors learn how to use telehealth services so they can get medical care without leaving their home.

Tuesday afternoon, health care providers across Central Florida reacted to the news. Below are the unedited responses.

Orlando Health

“Orlando Health’s telemedicine app, Virtual Visit, is operational and available for use in Central Florida for $49 per visit. Doctors are able to do verbal/visual COVID-19 screenings and provide guidance remotely to help limit the exposure of the virus to the public.”

Health First

“We have increased our virtual visit capacity. Anyone in the community with a medical concern that needs to see a doctor is encouraged to call our central scheduling line, 321-434-3131. We have schedulers available to help schedule a virtual visit.”

Community Health Centers

“There is a need for clarity on the roll-out of these expansions. These are complicated regulatory issues that need very specific directions regarding how to incorporate them into the daily operation. We must know exactly how this will work, and if Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), like us (Community Health Centers) are included in the expanded service, as Telehealth for FQHCs have some restrictions on them. Also, The President announced this for CMS and Medicare, but that does not always provide the same for Medicaid, where changes/expansion etc. must be approved/authorized by Florida’s Agency For Healthcare Administration.”

“FQHCs like us across the state will be prepared to utilize these services if we can include them on our scope, without significant red tape which may slow down the process.”

“We provide comprehensive, quality health care to all patients, regardless of their financial or insurance status. With 13 locations throughout Central Florida, we will continue to offer all of our services including: pediatrics, family medicine, internal medicine, obstetrics, gynecology, dental, optometry, behavioral health and pharmacy services for the community. To schedule an appointment or for more information, please call 407-905-8827 or visit us at www.chcfl.org. It is important that patients understand that our centers are a primary care safety net and are working closely with State and Federal agencies feverishly to be able to provide the necessary services to fight the coronavirus.”

This story will be updated as more replies are received.