Community Health Clinics Move To Telehealth During Coronavirus Outbreak
Public health officials are urging doctors to take visits over the phone or videoconference, known as telehealth, in an effort to slow the transmission of the novel coronavirus.
But for federally qualified health centers (FQHC) who serve a lot of low-income patients, it’s traditionally been difficult to get reimbursed by Medi-Cal for telehealth. Now that may be changing.
THEN CAME CORONAVIRUS
Some clinics in Los Angeles, like St. John’s Wellness Center in South L.A., have scrambled to start telehealth — even if they don't get reimbursed.
St. John’s started a week and a half ago implementing telehealth, mostly reaching their patients through the messaging service WhatsApp. Since then, St. John’s CEO Jim Mangia said they have done about 4,000 visits through telehealth.
“We are able to screen patients, we are able to triage them based on their risk," Mangia said. "We can assess whether they need to come in for a visit.”
But it’s not cheap to do visits this way. Mangia estimates they've spent $80,000 in just the week and a half.
REIMBURSEMENT ON THE WAY?
This week, Governor Gavin Newsom and health officials asked the federal government to lift the tough restrictions on billing for telehealth for federally qualified health centers.
Now, California is waiting for approval from the federal government.
SOME STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT COVID-19
We're all living through this extraordinary and frightening pandemic. The vast majority of our newsroom has been working from home (here's some advice on that) since March 11 to bring you calm, helpful reporting. We are answering your questions and taking more.
LAist is known for our events listings but now hopefully we'll be known for our non-event listings and tips for parents to try to keep you sane. And we're looking for your nominations for everyday heroes in this time of crisis. We're here to help. And if you can help support that effort financially, we'd be grateful.
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