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Telehealth

Effective Date: April 01, 2019
Revised Date: March 15, 2019

Please see the BCBSND HealthCare News article from March 20, 2020 for temporary changes to telehealth that is effective from March 16, 2020 for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency period.  

Description

Telehealth is the use of interactive audio, video or other telecommunications technology that is used by a health care provider or health care facility at a distant site to deliver health services at an originating site; and that is delivered over a secure connection that complies with the requirements of state and federal laws.

Telehealth enables providers to extend their reach and improve their efficiency and effectiveness while still maintaining high quality care and attention to patient safety. The benefits and limitations of care delivery via telehealth is the responsibility of the provider. A provider using telehealth technologies in the provision of services to a patient must provide care of the patient consistent with traditional standards of care for the patient presentation. An examination or evaluation may be performed entirely through telehealth if the examination or evaluation is equivalent to an in-person examination. An examination that utilizes appropriate diagnostic testing and use of peripherals that would be deemed necessary in a like in-person examination or evaluation would meet this standard, as would an examination conducted with an appropriately licensed intervening health care provider, practicing within the scope of their profession, providing necessary physical findings to the licensee.

Telehome monitoring, a form of asynchronous telehealth, which includes the use of electronic remote devices for remote medical intervention and assessment from a patient's place of residence, is out of scope for this policy. Please see BCBSND Corporate Medical Policy for Telehome Monitoring.

BCBSND allows industry standard ancillary asynchronous teleradiology.

Policy/Criteria

Administrative Requirements

The practice of health care is deemed to occur in the state where the patient is located. Practitioners providing health care to patients located in another state are subject to the licensing and disciplinary laws of the state of the patient's location and must possess an active license for their profession in the state of the patient's location.

Providers should meet or exceed applicable federal and state legal requirements of medical/health information privacy, including compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and originating site's state privacy, confidentiality, security, and medical retention rules. Providers are referred to €œStandards for Privacy of Individually Identifiable Health Information, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Guidance documents are available on the HHS Office for Civil Rights Web site at: www.hhs.gov/ocr/hipaa. An attestation by the provider signifying HIPAA compliance must be available upon request.

The health care provider should review and follow the technical and administrative guidelines published by the American Telemedicine Association for fundamental requirements when providing medical and other healthcare services using telecommunications technologies. When guidelines, position statements, or standards from any professional organization or society exist, health care providers should also incorporate those into practice.

  1. To qualify as a professional service, actual visual contact (face to face) must be maintained between the health care provider and patient.
  2. Benefit coverage for health services delivered by means of telehealth is the same as coverage for health services delivered by in-person means. No benefits are available for services delivered by telehealth that are not covered services when delivered in-person.
  3. Member initiated online visits through consumer devices via telehealth platforms such as mobile health apps, kiosks, web-based video available through electronic health record (EHR) portals may be eligible for reimbursement if listed specifically in the member's benefit plan as a covered service.
  4. All services provided must be medically appropriate and necessary. Documentation to support the service must be included in the clinical record. The medical record must specify the location of the patient and the location of the provider and that the service was performed via telehealth.
  5. A HIPAA compliant electronic connection must be established and utilized between the distant and originating sites.
  6. Practitioners at the distant site who may furnish and receive payment for covered telehealth services (subject to State law) are those providers licensed, registered or certified by the appropriate state agency where the services are performed and provided in accordance with the provider's scope of licensure as provided by law. Where there is no appropriate state agency, the provider must be registered or certified by the appropriate professional body.

The following services, including but not limited to, would not be covered under telehealth:

  1. Electronic connections that are not conducted over a secure encrypted web site as specified by the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act of 1996 Privacy & Security Rules.
  2. Audio-only telephone, email, or facsimile transmissions
  3. E-visits
  4. Prescription renewals
  5. Scheduling a test or appointment
  6. Call to nurse line for questions or standing orders
  7. Clarification of issues from previous visit
  8. Other non-clinical communication
  9. Updating patient demographic information
  10. Reporting test results
  11. Requesting a referral
  12. Provider to provider consultation
  13. Any telephone consultation with another provider in reference to the patient
  14. Phone, email or interactive video visits not initiated by the member
  15. Reminders
  16. Providing educational materials
  17. Treatment that duplicates services provided by the educational setting and/or are part of scholastic education are non-covered and therefore not allowable via telehealth

Definitions:

Synchronous telehealth-Synchronous telehealth means care delivery that occurs in real time between a patient at an originating site and a health care provider at a distant site, connected by video technology. It may include the use of peripherals, meaning medical cameras and equipment to allow specialized examination.

Asynchronous telehealth (also called store-and-forward) Electronic medical information, imaging, or communication that is transferred, recorded, or otherwise stored to be reviewed at a distant site at a later time by a health care provider or health care facility without the patient present in real time.

Types of asynchronous telehealth include:

  1. Teleradiology – The practice of a radiologist interpreting radiologic images of internal body parts while not physically present in the location where the images are generated.
  2. Telehome monitoring – The use of electronic remote monitoring devices for purposes such as blood pressure checks, weight checks via a telescale as well as other remote medical intervention and assessment tools from the convenience of the patient’s place of residence.
  3. E-visits – a form of asynchronous telehealth online electronic medical evaluation that is non-face-to-face using Internet resources in response to a patient’s on-line inquiry typically through email or by completion of a questionnaire that enables health providers to interact with patients through a secured electronic channel.

Direct Supervision- Direct supervision means the supervising provider must be present in the office suite and immediately available to provide assistance or direction to the professional in training.

Distant site  A site at which a health care provider or health care facility is located while providing medical services by means of telehealth.

Originating site – A site at which a patient is located at the time health services are provided to the patient by means of telehealth.

Provider of record (or attending provider) – the principal provider who oversees a patient's care. The provider of record provides primary and routine care, or oversees hospital care, and coordinates other specialized care for a patient.

Consultation An evaluation of a patient and resulting opinion or recommendation from a physician or licensed independent practitioner. Consultation evaluation is performed upon the request of a treating provider of record because the consultant has expertise in a specific clinical area beyond the requesting provider's knowledge. If, after completion of a consultation, the consultant assumes responsibility for management of a patient's condition, subsequent care codes should be used and not follow-up consultation codes.

Online visit A member initiated low complexity interactive patient encounter performed through a consumer device via telehealth platforms such as mobile health apps, kiosks, or web-based video available through an electronic health record (EHR) portal.

  1. Audiovisual (face-to-face) real time online communication
  2. The patient initiates the encounter
  3. A low complexity, straight forward decision-making encounter that addresses urgent but not emergent clinical conditions
  4. It is not anticipated that a follow-up encounter is required

Members must consult their applicable benefit plans or contact a Member Services representative for specific coverage information.

Billing and Coding

For information related to billing and coding, refer to Reimbursement Policy.

Source

American Speech-Language and Hearing Association. Telepractices and ASHA: Report of the Telepractices Team. December 2001.

Krizner K. Telemedicine still looks for inroads to total acceptability. Managed Healthcare Executive. May 2002. 44-45.

Telemedicine for the Medicare Population. Summary, Evidence Report/Technology Assessment: Number 24. AHRQ Publication Number 01-E011, February 2001. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/epcsums/telemedsum.htm (Last accessed 12/19/2002)

BlueCross BlueShield Association. Telemedicine Issue Brief. 1/30/1998.

Bashshur RL, Shannon GW, Bashshur N, Yellowlees PM. The empirical evidence for telemedicine interventions in mental disorders. Telemed J E Health. 2015 Dec 1. [Epub ahead of print]

Medicare Learning Network. Telehealth Services. Department of Health and Human Services. ICN 901705 December 2015

North Dakota Century Code 26.1-36-09.15

Federation of State Medical Boards. Model Policy for the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine April 2014 www.fsmb.org

American Telemedicine Association http://www.americantelemed.org/home

Center for Rural Health https://ruralhealth.und.edu/

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) Section 5002 https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/ppacacon.pdf

CMS Manual System, Medicare Claims Processing Pub 100-04

Totten AM, Womack DM, Eden KB, McDonagh MS, Griffin JC, Grusing S, Hersh WR. Telehealth: Mapping the Evidence for Patient Outcomes From Systematic Reviews. Technical Brief No. 26. (Prepared by the Pacific Northwest Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-2015-00009-I.) AHRQ Publication No.16- EHC034-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; June 2016. www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/reports/final.cfm.