We are living in unprecedented times. At the time of writing, the World Health Organization declared the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.1 This virus can potentially affect anyone, including healthcare workers, patients, families, friends, and neighbors.
Before COVID-19, in any health care setting, engaging face-to-face with our wound care patients was considered preferable and important to evaluate and manage the patient’s wound. In the outpatient wound care department, as one example, patients would travel to be seen by the wound care provider. However, based on the severity of COVID-19 and each state’s directives for travel restrictions, we must now implement alternative “virtual services” to treat our patients.
To meet this new need, the spotlight is on telehealth or telemedicine. Starting on March 6, 2020,2 the CMS broadened access to Medicare telehealth services so beneficiaries can receive a wider range of services from their providers without having to travel to a healthcare facility. The CMS expanded this benefit on a temporary and emergency basis under the 1135 waiver authority and the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. Under this new waiver, Medicare can pay for office, hospital, and other visits furnished via telehealth across the country and including in patient residences.
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.2 There are three main types of virtual services physicians and other professionals can provide to Medicare beneficiaries: Medicare telehealth visits, virtual check-ins, and e-visits (Table).2–4
Cathy Thomas Hess is VP, Chief Clinical Officer for Wound Care at Net Health. She has over 30 years of experience in wound care, authored hundreds of journal articles, spoken at both national and international events, and has authored book chapters and the best-selling handbook titled Product Guide to Skin and Wound Care, 8th edition. She continues to be influential in the wound care community today and serves on the Editorial Advisory Boards for Advances in Skin and Wound Care, authoring a monthly column entitled Practice Points, and Today’s Wound Clinic.