Why is a Telehealth guide specific to WV necessary?
Telehealth is not new. It existed long before the Covid pandemic and will continue afterward. What is new is the rapid increase in utilization of telehealth and the resulting changes in laws, licensure rules, coding, billing, prescribing and documentation. Complexity has arisen from the federal control of telehealth parameters for delivery of care to patients insured by Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans and the veteran’s health system, while state specific laws largely control parameters for Medicaid, PEIA and commercial insurers. The result is a jungle of rules and regulations leaving health care providers who would like to adopt telehealth as a tool in their practice feeling confused and helpless. One can find the information needed but this would require staff, time, and resources many of our primary care practices do not possess. This uphill climb prompts many practices give up a telehealth program before starting or shortly thereafter.
Telehealth is particularly important to the people of West Virginia due to the high percentage of chronic disease in our state. Continuity of care in primary care practices is potentially threatened by the emergence of direct to consumer or private insurer based virtual programs. Telehealth is not for every visit or every situation. It is imperative that we as primary care providers become champions of telehealth and use both virtual and in-person modalities to provide efficient, equitable, and effective continuity of care throughout and beyond the pandemic.
The WVAFP, Bureau of Public health has provided resources through a grant to compile the information in this guide. The original guide was current as of June 2021. A second grant has been provided for update and improvement of the guide. Information in the updated guide is what is believed to be accurate as of Feb 1, 2022. Again, the guide is for informational purpose only. Legal and billing counsel is suggested before action. The express purpose of this endeavor is to produce a practical, simplified reference to ease appropriate adoption of telehealth as part of primary care practice in the state of West Virginia.
Nancy A. Lohuis, M.D., FAAFP, Board Certified ABFM and American Board of Preventative Medicine Subspecialty of Clinical Informatics.