CMS sends more detailed guidance to providers about COVID-19

March 11, 2020

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is supplementing its guidance to home health agencies and dialysis facilities to protect the health and safety of our nation’s patients and providers in response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

The memoranda were developed from frequently asked questions the agency has received about interacting with patients amid COVID-19. The guidance offers clear, actionable information to healthcare workers on the screening, treatment and transfer procedures to follow when interacting with patients. This action is part of the broader effort by the White House Task Force to ensure that all of our nation’s healthcare providers and patients – particularly those at high-risk of complications from COVID-19 – remain healthy while helping to contain the spread of the disease.

“We are arming our providers on the front lines with the information they need to remain safe, while giving quality care to their patients,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “This guidance will help providers identify patients who may have contracted the disease and minimize further transmission. It will also equip them to get these patients the medical care they need in order to recover.”

CMS is responsible for protecting beneficiaries who receive home healthcare services, as well as those who receive treatment in dialysis facilities. The guidance is an enhancement to the agency’s health and safety requirements and aims to help control and prevent the spread of infection. In particular, the new guidance advises all Medicare-enrolled dialysis facilities to identify high-risk individuals prior to appointments or upon arrival, and immediately begin screening for fever or symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as a cough and sore throat, international travel within the last 14 days to restricted countries, and contact with someone with known or suspected COVID-19.

Additionally, the guidance recommends screening visitors for potential exposure to the virus, gives detailed instructions for dealing with staff who have either been exposed or are showing signs of illness, and offers a list of frequently asked questions that include responses to help safely treat patients in this setting.

The guidance to home health agencies echoes recommendations set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with specific considerations of when it is safe to treat patients at home, when patients should be considered for hospitalization and recommendations for family member exposure, when evaluating and caring for patients with known or suspected COVID-19. CMS is recommending home health agencies remain vigilant, regularly monitor patients for any symptoms of the virus, and communicate effectively with patients, family members and other caregivers so that the entire care team understands a patient’s individual needs and goals of care. CMS’s guidance ends with a frequently asked question section offering answers to information that will ensure safe, quality care in the face of COVID-19.

CMS has the story.

More COVID-19 coverage HERE.