By Brett M. Paepke, OD
July 15, 2020
Telemedicine had been on eyecare professionals’ radar for years before the unexpected stay-at-home directives and social distancing measures put in place by the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, suddenly, ECPs were clamoring for information and implementation of telemedicine so they could continue seeing patients who were no longer permitted access to their practices.
The government even relaxed HIPAA rules so patients and practitioners alike could comfortably interact electronically yet remotely without fear of breaking the rules. As practices slowly and safely reopen with social distancing still a concern, practicing telemedicine remains a goal of ECPs albeit to a lesser degree. Still, the need to get paid for a telemedicine visit has always been a primary concern of ECPs before, during and presumably after this pandemic.
Explore New E-Resource
In order to be reimbursed for a telemedicine visit, ECPs must first know the codes for the types of services provided and their requirements. They must also have the most current codes as per the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which recently updated them in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
There’s an adage in some parts of the country that says if you don’t like the weather now, wait a few minutes. This, of course, is based on the idea that meteorological conditions can change fast. That same logic applies to coding principles surrounding telemedicine. Beginning in mid-March and in less than three weeks’ time, CMS offered five separate updates on telemedicine policies, testing the limits of even the most enthusiastic coding and policy student.
With that in mind, here is a brief summary of the most commonly used telemedicine codes in optometry along with guidance current through the latest updates.