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ACP outlines guide for COVID-19 telehealth coding, billing


The American College of Physicians has published tips for medical practices related to billing and coding for telehealth, and for handling clinician and staff absences due to illness or quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It strongly encourages practices to use telehealth, whenever possible, to mitigate exposure of patients who are sick or at risk because of other underlying conditions and to protect health care workers and the community from the spread of the disease.

The national organization of internists also recommends in the guidance that practices establish protocols and procedures for use by clinicians and all other staff in light of the pandemic.

The billing and coding tips are being offered to help practices deal with the rapidly changing situation surrounding the COVID-19 emergency, according to a statement from the ACP.

The coding-related guidance incorporates changes to a number of telehealth rules for Medicare beneficiaries, announced by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on March 17.

“Now in a full state of emergency, many Medicare restrictions related to telehealth have been lifted. Patients can be at home, and non-HIPAA compliant technology is allowed. There is no cost sharing for COVID-19 testing. In addition, to encourage use by patients, Medicare is allowing practices to waive cost sharing (copays and deductibles) for all telehealth services,” the organization said in the guidance. It notes, however, that the CMS does not currently reimburse for telephone calls.

The guidance includes details of the new ICD-10 codes, and stresses the importance of using the appropriate codes, given that some service cost-sharing has been waived for COVID-19 testing and treatment.

There is detailed coding guidance for virtual check-in, online evaluation and management, remote monitoring, originating site, and allowed technology and services.

In regard to clinician and staff absence due to illness or quarantine, the ACP says “practices may need to review emergency plans related to telework and to employee and clinician absence.” Among its recommendations are that practices and employers consider temporary adjustments to compensation formulas to accommodate those clinicians who experience a loss of income because they are paid based on production.

The organization emphasizes that, given the rapidly changing availability of testing for COVID-19, practices should contact their local health departments, hospitals, reference labs, or state health authorities to determine the status of their access to testing.

The full list of the ACP’s tips are available here.

Any new guidance for physicians will be posted on the ACP’s COVID-19 resource page.

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