COVID-19 updates and resources
AFMC is closely monitoring and assessing the situation of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its implications for health care providers. Our top priority is to protect the well-being of our employees and their families, providers, clients, and the community at large, as we continue to focus on keeping you informed and answering your questions.
We have a plan in place to continue servicing your needs during this crisis and address any challenges that arise as a result of COVID-19. While AFMC has suspended travel and face-to-face visits, we are maximizing telework. Our staff is available to assist you by phone, email and virtual meetings. Any large group meetings, trainings and other gatherings that were scheduled in the near term will be conducted as virtual events, postponed or canceled. We will keep you informed as we make these adjustments.
Most AFMC employees have remote work capabilities with access to our documents and systems in a secure environment. We have implemented steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our offices, including limitations on travel, outside visitors, meeting attendance and social distancing policies.
We are constantly monitoring events, policies and issues that affect our providers, AFMC operations and the country’s health care delivery system. We will post regular updates of national, state and local action as events unfold. Please contact us with any questions.
Thank you for the opportunity to be of service and for your ongoing trust. We wish everyone good health during this challenging time.
AFMC President and Chief Executive Officer
CMS and Medicare
Telehealth, telemedicine, and related terms generally refer to the exchange of medical information from one site to another through electronic communication to improve a patient’s health. Innovative uses of this kind of technology in the provision of health care is increasing. And with the emergence of the virus causing the disease COVID-19, there is an urgency to expand the use of technology to help people who need routine care, and keep vulnerable beneficiaries and beneficiaries with mild symptoms in their homes while maintaining access to the care they need. Limiting community spread of the virus, as well as limiting the exposure to other patients and staff members will slow viral spread.
The Trump Administration announced March 18 expanded Medicare telehealth coverage that will enable beneficiaries to receive a wider range of health care services from their doctors without having to travel to a health care facility. Medicare ‒ administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) ‒ will temporarily pay clinicians to provide telehealth services for beneficiaries residing across the entire country.
CMS’ Medicaid Telehealth Guidance to states.
Additional information for general Medicaid Telehealth Guidance can be found here.
DMS and Medicaid
In response to Gov. Hutchinson’s public health emergency declaration, Arkansas’ Division of Medical Services (DMS) issued new guidance and policy related to physicians use of telemedicine.
DMS suspended the rule related to originating site requirements for certain behavioral health providers to provide certain counseling services. By suspending this rule, these licensed behavioral health professionals will be able to continue to provide critical services to established patients while they remain in their homes. Any technology deemed appropriate may be used, including telephones, but technology must utilize direct communication that takes place in real-time. Read more about the relaxed requirements.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Arkansas and consistent with CMS’s coverage and payment for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, DMS is suspending the prohibition on use of telemedicine technology for limited occupational, physical or speech therapy services provided to established patients during the COVID-19 outbreak and the declaration of public health emergency. Read more about the relaxed requirements.
Laboratory testing for COVID-19
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak in Arkansas and consistent with CMS’s coverage and payment for COVID-19 diagnostic testing, DMS has published a list of laboratory services now covered.
The COVID-19 & HIPAA Bulletin Limited Waiver of HIPAA Sanctions and Penalties During a Nationwide Public Health Emergency waves certain provisions of the Security Rule. If you are seeking a temporary alternative for telemedicine, HHS has relaxed certain provisions of HIPAA compliance to allow non-public facing communications with patients. The list below includes some vendors that represent they provide HIPAA-compliant video communication products and that they will enter into a HIPAA BAA. The following technology is listed on the HHS website:
- Skype for Business
- Zoom for Healthcare
- Google G Suite Hangouts Meet
Facebook Live, Twitch, TikTok, and similar video communication applications are public facing, and should not be used in the provision of telehealth by covered health care providers.
A bulletin published by The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) advises covered entities of further flexibilities available to them as well as obligations that remain in effect under HIPAA as they respond to crises or emergencies.
Guidance on BAAs, including sample BAA provisions
Additional information about HIPAA Security Rule safeguards
Technical assistance on telehealth from HealthIT.gov
Stay current on the White House Task Force’s response to COVID-19.
For information specific to CMS, please visit the Current Emergencies Website.