Lexington, Ky – This week, Congressman Andy Barr secured much needed clarity on the use of telehealth services in hospitals from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  CMS has responded to give providers greater flexibility to expand telehealth services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.    

At the request of Congressman Barr, CMS provided guidance that, to the extent a medical service can be performed via telehealth when the locations are different, the same technology can also be used within the hospital.  More specifically, if the beneficiary and the practitioner furnishing the service are in the same institutional setting, like a hospital, but are utilizing telecommunications technology to keep socially distant while still furnishing the service but also reducing exposure risks, the practitioner need not report this service as telehealth and should instead report the face-to-face code for the in-person service furnished.  CMS has clarified this policy is now in place and providers should contact their Medicare Administrative Contractor with any questions.

Congressman Barr was first notified of this issue by Lexington epidemiologist, Dr. Mark Dougherty, one of the many healthcare providers on the front lines battling COVID-19.  Upon hearing his, and others’, concerns about same-site telehealth, Congressman Barr diligently advocated for a clarification and has been adamant about educating CMS on the benefits of expanding these services, particularly for patients with COVID-19. 

“This is great news for patients, hospitals and providers in the Sixth Congressional District and across the country,” said Congressman Barr.  “Not only will this decision by CMS bring the most innovative and modern medical technology to the fight against COVID-19, it will also help conserve critical but scarce personal protective equipment and minimize risk of exposure to the virus for our courageous doctors, nurses and frontline healthcare workers.  

“Throughout this novel coronavirus pandemic, I have worked hard to ensure our healthcare systems have access to the vital protective masks, gowns and gloves they need, while at the same time reducing our dependence on unreliable foreign suppliers,” Congressman Barr continued.  “This clarity from CMS helps to accomplish both of those objectives, and I sincerely appreciate the leadership at CMS for adapting to the needs of patients and healthcare providers during this pandemic and beyond.  

“Most of all, I want to thank Dr. Mark Dougherty for his patriotic and innovative service to our country in this trying time,” Congressman Barr concluded.  “We are very fortunate to have his skill, nationally respected expertise in treating infectious disease and unparalleled leadership right here in our community.”

“Rep. Barr has been invaluable in his leadership, responsiveness and support at the Federal level as we struggle to address numerous issues facing us in the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Dougherty.  “In particular, he has ensured that CMS allowed us to perform telemedicine in our own hospitals as a PPE conservation effort, resulting in a radical reduction in our burn rate of N95 masks and other PPE. Thank you, Congressman Barr!”

Dr. Dougherty discusses the importance of conserving PPE through in-hospital telehealth in this video message. 

“KHA is extremely grateful to Congressman Andy Barr for his assistance throughout the COVID-19 crisis,” said Nancy Galvagni, President and CEO of the Kentucky Hospital Association.  “His work to support hospitals, his recognition for the need to find ways to preserve PPE and seek ways to obtain more have been invaluable.”

“Telemedicine is an essential tool in battling the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides protection for patients and preserves vital PPE,” Dr. Charles Papp, a Lexington physician who is past president of the Lexington Medical Society and Chair of the Lexington Medical Society Executive Committee.  “Bringing regulations in line with current medical practice has magnified these benefits.  I am grateful the CMS has made these changes, and especially want to thank Congressman Barr.  His help to the medical community during this crisis has been exceptional.  I look forward to continued positive changes in the future.”