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Complex rehab stakeholders watch for telehealth developments

Complex rehab stakeholders watch for telehealth developments

EAST AMHERST, N.Y. - Complex rehab stakeholders need to “dig into” any new legislation related to permanently expanding the use of telehealth to make sure it includes occupational therapists and physical therapists, says Don Clayback.

Earlier this year, CMS expanded the use of telehealth, including for OTs and PTs, through the public health emergency.

“Congress needs to give CMS the authority to extend the expansion of telehealth outside of the public health emergency,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART during a webcast last week. “There are thoughts that the (PHE) will go well beyond (the end of October), but the fact remains, when the PHE ends, so will the policies tied to that expansion.”

CMS also added CPT 97542 - a code used by OTs and PTs for “wheelchair management” - to the list of approved codes for telehealth services during the PHE.

There is a “general sense of support” in Congress for expanding the use of telehealth beyond the PHE, Clayback says, and a new industry consortium is working on developing some documentation to support that request.

The devil is always in the details,” he said.

Those who watch Congress closely, like Seth Johnson, say there may be vehicles before the end of the year to address expanding the use of telehealth. For example, the president last week signed a bill to continue funding the government - but only through Dec. 11.

“That kicks the funding battle beyond the election,” said Johnson, senior vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. “Lawmakers will be looking to complete work on appropriations in November and December. That's important for us; that's a must-pass legislative vehicle. We will need to go after that to include a provision to advance our telehealth priority.”

In the meantime, OTs and PTs and their ATP partners are still navigating how to best leverage telehealth - a process that needs to include communication between the two parties even before evaluations take place.

“Just good communication up front prior to these visits really means a lot,” said Cathy Carver, executive director of The Clinician Task Force. “We want to make sure it's done well, which takes some planning.”

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