While keeping people distanced from each other during the current public health emergency is critical to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the people of Wisconsin still require health care – related to COVID-19 or not. Using computers, tablets, cell phones, and other technology to conduct health care visits at a distance, known as telehealth, can help people get care in a way that protects both patients and health care providers.
“Never has the option of telehealth been more critical than at a time when we are asking people to stay home, especially people who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19,” said Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary-designee Andrea Palm. “Using telehealth will help reduce exposures and keep our valued healthcare providers and others safe.”
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) was working to expand options around telehealth even before the COVID-19 outbreak began. On March 18, DHS notified Medicaid providers of two changes that should increase the use of telehealth. First, Medicaid members can now participate in telehealth visits from any location, including their homes. Second, Medicaid members can now have visits with their doctors over the telephone, not just using face-to-face technology. These changes are permanent and will be available to people who access Medicaid services even after the current emergency ends.
The DHS Division of Quality Assurance (DQA) made it possible so that healthcare providers no longer need a separate certification to provide services through telehealth. This supports our state’s efforts to protect healthcare workers and make sure that services can be delivered to those who need them, while expanding options for safe, effective visits between patients and providers.
In order to remain responsive to the needs of our communities, DHS will continue to work with health care providers to identify additional ways to use telehealth to meet Medicaid members’ needs.
Not all health care visits can use a telehealth format, but there are many that can, ranging from appointments where a doctor may want to assess if there’s a need for an in-person visit, to behavioral health sessions that are important parts of ongoing treatment plans. Patients should work with their providers to figure out what telehealth options are available for them.