March 24, 2020

Your Gastroenterology
COVID-19 Update

  • How to Use Telehealth

  • Stay Home Order

  • Pharmacy Board: Chloroquine/Hydroxychloroquine

  • Financial Relief for Medical Practices

Without question, Ohio’s efforts to quell the spread of COVID-19 relies on two things: a willingness to adhere to the social distancing orders and the incredible work of physicians and other healthcare professionals. As of Tuesday afternoon, Ohio has 564 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 91 healthcare professionals. Thank you for all you do and please remember to keep yourself safe.

How to Use Telehealth

Ohio Department of Health (ODH) orders prohibiting elective surgeries/procedures and for Ohioans to stay at home have led patients to – either willingly or unwillingly – cancel a significant number of scheduled medical office visits. We realize this has caused tremendous financial burdens for many practices across Ohio.

To alleviate that financial stress, the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) advocated for relaxed telehealth rules that would make it easier for physicians to see their patients via technology and be paid for it – and thus lessen the overall impact of loss income.

In last week’s communications, we shared with you that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Ohio Medicaid Department have both implemented adjustments to make it easier for Medicare and Medicaid patients to utilize telemedicine. The State Medical Board of Ohio also suspended certain rules pertaining to telehealth to make it easier for physicians to revamp their operations to include telehealth.

The question now becomes: How do physicians incorporate telehealth into their practice operations and patient management?

The OSMA, in partnership with CliniSync, has developed a recorded webinar—Ohio Physicians: How to Conduct a Patient Visit Electronically—that is now available. This free webinar will explain your telehealth options, consent and security issues, and documentation and coding considerations.

Access the Webinar >

Stay At Home Order

As of Monday afternoon, the entire state is under a mandatory ‘Stay At Home’ order with exceptions for essential travel for certain jobs and necessities. Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton, MD, on Sunday issued the order, essentially the equivalent of a two-week self-quarantine, as state leaders continue efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The order calls for all non-essential business to cease, unless operations are able to be completed with employees working from home. Non-essential travel is also banned, according to the order.

Exemptions to this order include ‘Essential Activities’ which will allow people to leave their homes for non-employment related reasons under certain circumstances while continuing to exercise social distancing – staying six-feet from another person. Seeking medical attention, shopping for groceries, or partaking in outdoor recreation, such as, walking, biking, and jogging is allowed. Public parks will remain open but playgrounds are closed.

The order also allows people employed in more than 20 essential fields to leave their homes for work, including, healthcare professionals, and people who work at grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants (pickup and delivery only), Media, public transportation, banks, and more.

The order is in effect until Monday, April 6.
If you have additional questions, CLICK HERE.

Emergency Rule on Chloroquine or Hydroxychloroquine

Recent reports and claims by some regarding the potential effects of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine against the COVID-19 have led to non-compliant prescribing of the two drugs, according to the state Pharmacy Board.

In an emergency meeting on Sunday, the pharmacy board passed a new rule barring pharmacists from dispensing chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 unless a person has tested positive for the virus or is otherwise approved by the pharmacy board’s executive director. The new rules require:

  • The patient must have their positive test disclosed by the doctor on the prescription request;
  • The prescription must be limited to a 14-day supply;
  • No refills are permitted without a new written prescription.

Any new prescriptions must have a diagnosis code, including those issued verbally. For new prescriptions issued on or after March 22, 2020 that do not have a diagnosis code, a pharmacist, pharmacy intern, or certified pharmacy technician must contact the prescriber to obtain the proper diagnosis code and document this information on the prescription or in the patient’s profile.

Business Relief for Medical Practices

We know that the recent government orders to help control the spread of COVID-19 have led to serious financial constraints for many medical practices in Ohio. With the help of the OSMA, we are continuing to monitor various options that may help physicians and their staffs get through this public health crisis. Here are a couple options to date:

More helps is on the way. Members of our U.S. Congress have promised to pass a COVID-19 relief bill that is expected to contain funding and low-interest loan opportunities for medical practices. And members of the Ohio Legislature returned to the Statehouse on Tuesday to work on a coronavirus relief bill. We’ll continue to monitor these options and provide you with updates.

You have a voice in this crisis. Please contact OGS Director Reginald Fields to share your experience with how this crisis is impacting you and your ability to practice medicine and to pose any questions you would like to have answered. We’ll continue to provide COVID-19 updates several times each week via email and on the OGS website. Thank you.

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