• Sanjay Gopal, PhD

TeleHealth - The New Frontier in Senior Living

Updated: Jul 4, 2020

With COVID-19 pandemic there is quite a bit of excitement about Telehealth with both consumers and vendors. Vendor marketing activities have substantially increased, and there are a plethora of solutions. Operators are being bombarded with “tele-health”. How can they sift through the noise? What is real, what is “hoopla”? This multi-part article aims to educate assisted living communities who are either curious about or considering a telehealth solution.

TeleHealth, what has changed? What’s the impact on Senior Living?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has broadened access to Medicare telehealth services so that beneficiaries can receive a wider range of services from their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility. These policy changes build on the regulatory flexibilities granted under the President’s emergency declaration. CMS is expanding this benefit on a temporary and emergency basis under the 1135 waiver authority and Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act. The benefits are part of the broader effort by CMS and the White House Task Force to ensure that all Americans – particularly those at high-risk of complications from the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 – are aware of easy-to-use, accessible benefits that can help keep them healthy while helping to contain the community spread of this virus.

Before COVID

  • Telehealth was restricted primarily due to reimbursement related issues

  • Medicare could only pay for telehealth for individuals in designated rural areas

  • Individuals also had to leave their home and go to a clinic, hospital, or certain other types of medical facilities for the service


  • Medicare can pay for office, hospital, and other visits furnished via telehealth across the country and including in patient’s places of residence starting March 6, 2020.

  • Physician reimbursement at the same level as an face to face visit

  • HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) is providing flexibility for healthcare providers to reduce or waive cost-sharing for telehealth visits paid by federal healthcare programs.

  • Currently, Medicare patients may use telecommunication technology for office, hospital visits and other services that generally occur in-person.

So the single biggest derived POTENTIAL benefit of Telehealth for Assisted Living is that communities can substantially reduce, if not eliminate, exposure of residents to visiting providers without compromising required medical care!

However, to realize this potential benefit, Telehealth has to be done right, wherein operators need to consider several issues and devise solutions based on their particular environment.


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