COVID-19 updates and resources
AFMC’s Response to COVID-19: A letter from our CEO
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.
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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.
Sincerely, Ray Hanley
AFMC President and Chief Executive Officer
Updated February 17, 2021
Updated February 17, 2021
Video: Telehealth Etiquette
Telehealth and in-office scripts to encourage patient visits
Added June 2, 2020
Use these messages to inform your patients you are open for business and are seeing patients using telemedicine visits or in-person visits in your clinic. These customizable scripts were developed in collaboration with Angie Walker from Dr. Randy Walker’s office and Jo Lynne Varner from Little Rock Pediatric Clinic. Scripts are available in English and Spanish. For easy reference, Spanish scripts are in the same order as English scripts.
Telehealth patient checklists
Added May 28, 2020
Telemedicine Decision Tree
Added November 4, 2020
Monoclonal Antibodies: Response to COVID-19 – February 5, 2021
Telemedicine in a COVID World – September 25, 2020
Reduce the Impact of COVID-19 On Your Practice With Telehealth – March 27, 2020
Keeping Your Practice Financially Healthy – April 17, 2020
Implementing Telehealth – Providing Patient Care During COVID-19 – April 24, 2020
CMS and Medicare
Updated April 15, 2021
On April 15, 2021, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, issued a renewal of determination that a public health emergency exists and will be effective on April 21, 2021 for an additional 90 days ending on July 20, 2021, unless it is further extended. Renewal of Determination That A Public Health Emergency Exists
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.
List of services payable under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule when furnished via telehealth – Updated April 7, 2021
The Trump Administration announced on March 18, 2020 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.
Fact Sheet from CMS on this announcement – March 17, 2020
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights Issues Guidance on Telehealth Remote Communications Following its Notification of Enforcement Discretion and provides an FAQ on Telehealth and HIPAA during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency – March 20, 2020
Medicare Telehealth Frequently Asked Questions – January 7, 2021
Frequently Asked Questions to Assist Medicare Providers – Updated March 31, 2021
CMS’ Medicaid Telehealth Guidance to states – March 12, 2020
Additional information for general Medicaid Telehealth Guidance can be found here
Health and Human Services (HHS)
HHS Telemedicine Hack
State of Arkansas
Updated March 31, 2021
On March 31, 2021, Gov. Hutchinson issued an executive order to renew the disaster and public health emergency to mitigate the spread and impact of COVID-19. EO 21-07 renewing the public health and disaster emergency and declaration of the State of Arkansas as a disaster are resulting from the state-wide impact of COVID-19 which will expire at 11:59 pm on May 31, 2021, unless it is renewed in whole or in part by a subsequent executive order.
DMS and Medicaid
Updated April 1, 2021
In response to Gov. Hutchinson’s public health emergency declaration, Arkansas’ Division of Medical Services (DMS) issued a response to COVID-19 for providers and public health emergency rule suspensions. With a notation that “guidance ends at the expiration of the public health emergency as declared by the Governor of Arkansas.”
For current COVID-19 guidance, check the Updates for Providers. Reviewed April 1, 2021.
Reviewed March 10, 2021
HHS Office for Civil Rights has issued guidance to relax some HIPAA penalties for health care providers during the COVID-19 Nationwide Public Health Emergency. Below are the recent highlights and links to more information.
Releasing PHI on COVID-19 patients – March 24, 2020 Guidance issued on how providers may disclose PHI about an individual who has been infected or exposed to COVID-19 including fire fighters, paramedics, law enforcement and public health authorities.
Telehealth – Last reviewed, January 20 2021 The Notification of Enforcement Discretion for Telehealth Remote Communications during the COVID-19 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 nonpublic 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 / Microsoft Teams
- Zoom for Healthcare
- Google G Suite Hangouts Meet
- Cisco Webex Meetings / Webex Teams
- Amazon Chime
- Spruce Health Care Messenger
Any public-facing applications, including Facebook Live, Twitch, TikTok, and similar video communication applications should not be used by health care providers. The waiver can be found here: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/emergency-preparedness/notification-enforcement-discretion-telehealth/index.html
Cyber Scams – Last reviewed April 15, 2021 Guidance from CISA and Homeland Security on cyber activity. Recommend providing refresher training to staff on recent attempts by scammers regarding content on COVID-19.
Business Associates April 2, 2020 – This guidance now permits business associates to disclose PHI for public health activities to CDC or CMS without risk of a HIPAA penalty. Typically, this activity must be outlined in the business associate agreement before the BA can share PHI. When disclosing the PHI for this purpose, the BA must still follow security regulations.
Community Based Testing Sites (CBTS) April 9, 2020 – created to encourage rapid growth of mobile testing sites. This includes mobile, drive-through, or walk-up sites that only provide COVID-19 specimen collection or testing services to the public.
- Using and disclosing only the minimum PHI necessary except when disclosing PHI for treatment.
- Setting up canopies or similar opaque barriers at a CBTS to provide some privacy to individuals during the collection of samples.
- Controlling foot and car traffic to create adequate distancing at the point of service to minimize the ability of persons to see or overhear screening interactions at a CBTS. (A six-foot distance would serve this purpose as well as supporting recommended social distancing measures to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19.)
- Establishing a “buffer zone” to prevent members of the media or public from observing or filming individuals who approach a CBTS, and posting signs prohibiting filming.
- Using secure technology at a CBTS to record and transmit electronic PHI.
- Posting a Notice of Privacy Practices (NPP), or information about how to find the NPP online, if applicable, in a place that is readily viewable by individuals who approach a CBTS.
Additional HIPAA Resources
Additional information about HIPAA Security Rule safeguards
Technical assistance on telehealth from HealthIT.gov
NIH: COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines
These Treatment Guidelines have been developed to inform clinicians how to care for patients with COVID-19. Updated February 11, 2021
HHS CARES Act Provider Relief Fund
Last reviewed April 20, 202`
$50 billion of the Provider Relief Fund is allocated for general distribution to Medicare facilities and providers impacted by COVID-19.
Relief Funding Options:
- COVID-19 Relief Funding Options
- Our nation’s small businesses are facing an unprecedented economic disruption due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. On Friday, March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the CARES Act, which contains $376 billion in relief for American workers and small businesses.In addition to traditional SBA funding programs, the CARES Act established several new temporary programs to address the COVID-19 outbreak.
This bill modifies provisions related to the forgiveness of loans made to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program implemented in response to COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019).
Laboratory testing for COVID-19
Updated August 7, 2020
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. – Updated December 7, 2020
Updated April 2021
- Stop the Spread of Germs – Infographic
- Symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- COVID-19 Social Media Toolkit – English and Spanish
For information specific to CMS, please visit the Current Emergencies Website where you can find these NEW resources
- NEW – Medicare Monoclonal Antibody COVID-19 Infusion Program Instructions (February 16, 2021)
- NEW – Coverage of Monoclonal Antibody Products to Treat COVID-19 (December 9, 2020)
- NEW – COVID-19 Medicare data snapshot (Updated March 24, 2021)
- CMS- COVID Patient Counseling Talking Points for Providers (July 30, 2020)
- CMS – COVID Patient Counseling Check List (July 30, 2020)
- CMS-COVID Patient Counseling Provider Q&A (July 30, 2020)
- ADH – Answer the Call: ADH Contact Tracers May Reach Out
- ADH – COVID-19 Contact Tracing
- Arkansas Department of Health – COVID-19
- ADH COVID-19 Media Library – English / Spanish / Marshallese