CMS is helping hospitals to reach patients at home

  • The CMS is helping hospitals deliver remote inpatient care.
  • And government support should help more hospitals warm up to investing in hospital-at-home products.
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In response to a recent surge of coronavirus cases, the CMS launched its Acute Hospital Care at Home initiative to combat shrinking hospital capacities and overburdened clinical staff. The program will allow hospitals to provide Medicare patients with acute care services via telehealth and remote patient monitoring (RPM) tools outside traditional hospital settings.

CMS helps hospitals deliver remote care amid rising COVID cases.

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The CMS has been knocking down barriers to telehealth and clearing the way for expanded use of digital health amid the pandemic:

  • The CMS broadened the types of virtual care services it covered, offering parity reimbursement and allowing practitioners to deliver care across state lines. In response to the pandemic, the CMS allowed  telehealth coverage to include audio-only phone calls in its Interim Final Rule. The CMS expanded this rule to include behavioral health and patient education services; it temporarily waived the requirement that providers practice in the state they’re licensed in—which increased telehealth access for Medicare beneficiaries; and in August, it proposed making some of these changes permanent
  • In March, the CMS announced the Hospital Without Walls initiative, which allows hospitals to deliver care beyond their clinical facilities, while still getting reimbursed by Medicare. For example, many hospitals moved patients to local ambulatory surgery centers (ASC) in light of elective surgery cancellations, and the CMS encouraged clinicians to use RPM tools to provide care across different facilities. 

Hospital-at-home programs are on the rise this year, but not anywhere near widespread—and direct support from a regulatory entity like the CMS could be the push hospitals need to fully embrace remote care programs. In early November, DispatchHealth released data that demonstrated the efficacy of its hospital-at-home program: The program reported a 30-day readmission rate of just 3%, which is significantly lower than the 15.7% readmission rate of Medicare patients, per the CMS’ latest figures.

And in October, Deloitte launched Hospital in Home—a connected care offering that provides a remote home monitoring system for health systems to deliver care to patients in their homes. These kinds of hospital-at-home programs can help hospitals shorten the length of an inpatient stay, boost patient satisfaction, and improve health outcomes—but up until now, costs of implementing something like this may have been high without adequate reimbursement.

Now that the CMS has outright offered logistical support and reimbursement for remote hospital care, more hospitals may step up to participate.

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