The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed the way that we are living and working around the world. Due to the lack of an available vaccine, the current primary recommendation for preventing the spread of this virus is by practicing social distancing and good hygiene (frequent hand washing and limiting facial contact). Healthcare providers have a responsibility to protect their patients and themselves from unnecessary disease exposure during outbreaks such as this, but how can telehealth or Chronic Care Management (CCM) help?
CCM is a service designed to improve the quality of care and clinical outcomes for patients with multiple chronic diseases by increasing their engagement with clinicians and improving the overall management of their chronic conditions. This may be especially important for those who become infected with COVID-19, as early studies indicate that patients with chronic diseases such as asthma, COPD, heart conditions, cancer, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, kidney and liver disease, and others may be at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, as well as experiencing more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, respiratory failure, and death. Ensuring that those with chronic diseases are well-controlled may be an important step in limiting the spread or severity of this novel virus.
Telehealth services such as CCM promote patient and provider safety during times of viral outbreak by limiting unnecessary personal contact. Many conditions that typically cause patients to seek a visit with their primary care physician may be appropriate for a telehealth evaluation. Recently the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was ordered to pay providers for telehealth services delivered to any Medicare beneficiary during the current national health emergency. This provides an excellent opportunity for the healthcare system to demonstrate the value of telehealth as well as limit the spread of this virus, freeing valuable space in clinics for the treatment of those with the most serious concerns. This change in CMS guidelines, while temporary, may serve as the stepping stone to wider acceptance of telehealth services by policymakers and payers, as the benefits of this technology become more widely understood.
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- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. President Trump Expands Telehealth Benefits for Medicare Beneficiaries During COVID-19 Outbreak. CMS.gov. Published online March 17, 2020. https://www.https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/president-trump-expands-telehealth-benefits-medicare-beneficiaries-during-covid-19-outbreak
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- Schurrer J, O’Malley A, Wilson C, McCall N, Jain N. Evaluation of the Diffusion and Impact of the Chronic Care Management (CCM) Services: Final Report. Washington, D.C. Mathematica Policy Research. 2 Nov 2017; cited 26 March 2020.
- US Center for Disease Control. Coronavirus Disease 2019: People who are at higher risk for severe illness. CDC.gov. Published online March 26, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/people-at-higher-risk.html