COVID-19 eNews March 19, 2020

Summary of Medicare Telemedicine Services

Summary of Medicare Telemedicine Services

Wednesday in New York: 2382 COVID-19 Cases; 23% Hospitalization Rate
New York state reported 2,382 cases Wednesday morning, with a 23 percent hospitalization rate — its highest yet. It is likely that New York City will experience a similar or higher rate as more people begin experiencing COVID-19 symptoms that require hospitalization, though the surge has not hit health systems yet.

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he was dispatching the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort to New York Harbor to support the response. The Pentagon is preparing the ships, which are equipped with 1,000 hospital beds each. Defense officials noted that the hospital ships aren’t conducive to containing infectious disease outbreaks, but can be used to treat non-coronavirus patients while existing medical facilities focus on disease treatment.

MSSNY Contracted with DrFirst to Offer a Telehealth Product for $300 Per User
We would like to make members aware that MSSNY has contracted with DrFirst to offer Backline, a HIPAA compliant telemedicine product and care collaboration secure messaging tool that may be of assistance to private practitioners. Backline is available at a $300/user annual subscription. For more information, please go here. To register today to begin to use Backline -Telehealth, go here.

Clinicians Petitioning US to Produce/Distribute Personal Protective Equipment
Clinicians across the United States are petitioning the federal government to follow the lead of South Korea, China, and other nations by imposing an immediate nationwide quarantine to slow the inevitable spread of COVID-19.

Without federal action, the creators say, their lives and the lives of their colleagues, patients, and families are being put at increased risk. In addition to the quarantine, the petition, posted on the website, calls on US leaders to institute emergency production and distribution of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and to rapidly increase access to testing.

The petition, which garnered more than 40,000 signatures in just 12 hours and as of this writing was approaching 94,000, was started by an apolitical Facebook group to focus attention on what members see as the most critical issues for clinicians: slowing the spread of the virus through a coast-to-coast quarantine; protection of medical personnel with adequate supplies of essential equipment; and widespread testing.

State and Federal Agencies Take Steps to Strongly Encourage Patients to Receive Treatment Via Telehealth
There have been a number of important steps taken over the last week to better enable physicians to treat their patients via telemedicine.

This week, CMS announced it was implementing rules to temporarily waive the limitations on providing telemedicine for their Medicare patients. Also, very importantly, the federal Office of Civil Rights announced it was relaxing enforcement of HIPAA rules such that a physician “that wants to use audio or video communication technology to provide telehealth to patients during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency can use any non-public facing remote communication product that is available to communicate with patients”, and that OCR will “not impose penalties for noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth using such non-public facing audio or video communication products during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.”

This follows important steps taken by the New York State Department of Financial Services reminding insurers to cover telehealth services for patients including basic smartphone technology and waiving patient cost-sharing. They also noted they would be strongly encouraging self-insured plans operating in New York State not subject to state regulation to follow these coverage and cost-sharing rules. Moreover, a similar announcement was made by the New York State Department of Health including ensuring there is Medicaid and Medicaid Managed Care coverage for telephone visits.

Governor Cuomo has signed an Executive Order permitting out of state physicians and other health care personnel to practice in New York State as if they had a license in New York. Governor Cuomo has also been urging retired physicians and other health care personnel to volunteer to help their former hospitals during this emergency. Physicians can sign up here.

AMA: Government’s Move on Elective Surgery Guidelines Will Give Flexibility to Physicians Awaiting Surge in Patients
“The guidance from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on adult elective surgery is a vital step is allocating resources during the pandemic. As hospitals and physician practices plan for anticipated surges of patients needing care for COVID-19 infections, health professionals must use their expertise to develop allocation policies that are fair and safeguard the welfare of patients.

The CMS guidance offers needed flexibility to physicians by allowing them to consider the imperative of resource conservation, especially personal protective equipment. “The nation’s physicians know challenging days are coming. We are preparing for it and are grateful that the federal government understands that physicians need to have flexibility when responding to this threat.” The AMA Code of Medical Ethics offers detailed advice to physicians on how to approach the allocation of limited health care resources. Among other things, it covers which criteria to consider, setting care priorities and the importance of transparency. Statement Attributable to: Patrice A. Harris M.D., M.A. President, American Medical Association.

President Trump Invokes Defense Production Act
The Trump administration on Wednesday said it would invoke the Defense Production Act to increase the domestic production of medical supplies necessary for fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The Defense Production Act gives the executive branch a wide range of powers to influence the nation’s industrial base for national defense, including warning the administration for weeks that there’s a critical lack of ventilators and other devices and supplies to address COVID-19. The coronavirus outbreak has strained medical supply chains because many devices and supplies are made in China or by a small number of firms.

The administration will likely use its ability to steer private businesses to increase U.S. production of N95 masks and other critical medical supplies and devices. Hospitals, experts and policymakers asked the administration to invoke the Defense Production Act earlier.

Psychosocial Dimensions of Infectious Outbreaks” WEBINAR April 1st @ 7:30am

MSSNY’s has expedited the presentation of the next Medical Matters webinar “Psychosocial Dimensions of Infectious Outbreaks” on Wednesday April 1st at 7:30am.  This program is a companion piece to the March 18th coronavirus webinar.  This program provides physicians with vital information to care for patients, staff, family and themselves during this unprecedented pandemic.

Faculty for this program is Craig Katz, MD.

Educational Objectives are:

  • Understand common human reactions to infectious outbreaks
  •  Explore factors that influence how people react
  • Describe how to apply historical lessons to your own medical practice

Medical Matters is a series of Continuing Medical Education (CME) webinars sponsored by MSSNY’s Committee on Emergency Preparedness and Disaster/Terrorism Response.  A copy of the flyer for this program can be accessed here. To register, please click here.

For more information, contact: Melissa Hoffman at or call (518) 465-8085

Additional information or assistance with registration may be obtained by contacting Melissa Hoffman at

The Medical Society of the State of New York is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) to provide continuing medical education for physicians.

The Medical Society of the State of New York designates this live activity for a maximum of 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™.  Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity.

Jones Beach, Stonybrook, Staten Island and Rockland Set Test Sites
A steady stream of people in cars pulled up to the Jones Beach site Tuesday afternoon and were waved into an area with three large white tents as state troopers stood by. The site will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., by appointment only, though no doctor referral is needed. Cuomo said another site will open in Suffolk County, at Stony Brook University.

Other drive-thru sites opened Tuesday on Staten Island and in Rockland County. In New Rochelle, where a similar site was recently set up, on Sunday 1,882 people showed up, state officials said. There have been more than 1,800 people using that drive-thru each of the first four days.

In Nassau County, the tents were set up in the parking lot of the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center across the road from the New York State Park Police headquarters. Unlike in New Rochelle, people will not need a referral from a doctor to get tested at the Jones Beach location, officials said. The number to call for an appointment is 888-364-3065.

When people call in, they will be prioritized for testing based on factors such as age, health condition, and other risk factors, Cuomo’s office said. Call 888-364-3065.

Gov. Cuomo: Must Halve Number of Employees
Businesses across New York must half the number of employees that show up to the workplace, Governor Cuomo announced Wednesday.

The governor will sign an executive order enacting the new mandatory requirement, which exempts essential services including food, pharmacies, healthcare, and shipping. Cuomo said he could increase the fraction of people required to work remotely if the 50% rule does not slow the spread of COVID-19New York is the most affected state in the country and the Governor reported 1,008 new cases of the virus on Wednesday—Cuomo is pursuing increasingly aggressive actions to slow its spread.  He said, “I understand this is a burden to business. I understand the impact on the economy,” Cuomo said. “Let’s maintain the public health, we’ll figure out the economy afterwards.”