By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

Over the weekend, five professional organizations sent a letter to Congress asking lawmakers to include assistance for patients and frontline professionals as part of any federal relief legislation passed in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

For patients, the American Medical Association and the American College of Surgeons, among others, asked Congress to ensure all payers provide coverage and payment for audio-only telehealth visits at the same level as in-person visits.

“While virtual telehealth visits may be covered in some cases by insurers, they typically are paid far less than in-person visits, and do not include traditional audio-only phone calls with patients, only video-enabled telehealth applications,” the groups wrote. “Many patients, especially seniors, have access to phones but not video-enabled telehealth apps.”

For providers, the groups strongly urged Congress to “take all possible actions” to make sure everyone who needs personal protective equipment (PPE) receives it. Nationwide, facilities already are reporting a shortage of PPE, putting frontline workers at risk for contracting COVID-19.

Further, the groups asked for “dedicated and direct financial assistance” to practices and physicians testing, diagnosing, and treating COVID-19, as doing so leads to higher costs, including spending money to acquire needed PPE and other supplies. Financial assistance also could offset some revenue facilities may lose by putting off elective surgeries and visits, a recommended tactic to help maintain open beds and fresh supplies to treat the coming surge of patients infected with COVID-19.

The American College of Physicians, another group that co-signed this weekend’s letter to Congress, sent its own additional letter to lawmakers late Sunday afternoon with a few more specific requests, including a broad expansion of health insurance as well as specific tweaks to Medicare and Medicaid payments.

Because COVID-19 is so contagious, telemedicine can be an invaluable tool for all healthcare professionals. The American Academy of Family Physicians has updated its telehealth guidance to include specific recommendations when helping COVID-19 patients. This includes information for practices that may never have used the technology at all. Along with these updates, the organization also provided some useful testimonials from frontline providers who have used telehealth to help patients seeking assistance during the pandemic.

Several current and upcoming issues of various Relias Media publications include in-depth coverage regarding how COVID-19 is affecting many practice areas. For even more updated breaking news about the pandemic, please keep checking in with ReliasMedia.com.