By Ana Mola, PhD, RN, ANP-C, MAACVPR | July 13, 2020
Dear AACVPR Nation,
I hope everyone is well and safe in your personal, professional and community lives as we advance through the resolve of this public health emergency (PHE) resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This PHE has impacted us and our patients in unprecedented and challenging ways -not the least of which is to participate in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation (CPR) services in a safe and timely manner.
I am writing this President’s Message to highlight the critical efforts that our Board of Directors, Subject Matter Experts, GRQ, partner associations and our AACVPR staff have executed to represent the best interests of the AACVPR membership and the CPR specialties.
These AACVPR leaders and stakeholders have strategized for endless hours over the past 5 months, to provide clinical recommendations to our membership for the safe delivery of CPR care to our patients. These endeavors have been successful in the provision of continuous clinical best practice updates to address the PHE and the sharing of program reopening guidelines. Additionally, the AACVPR leaders and stakeholders have invested many hours to create legislative advocacy strategies to achieve CMS billable options for telehealth reimbursement for our CPR programs to deliver safe remote care to our patients.
However, it has been a frustrating and disappointing time, throughout this pandemic, not to achieve billable options for telehealth reimbursement for our CPR programs to activate a virtual CPR outreach to our patients. Hence, I am writing to enlist each one of you – our AACVPR members – in a Call to Action.
Allow me to review the strategies we executed over the past 5 months. First, when the pandemic shut elective health care down in early March, AACVPR began by asking CMS for billable options to continue outreach and delivery of CPR services in a remote capacity. Physician services were granted telehealth waivers that were not extended to hospital outpatient services such as CPR. This initial request in April from AACVPR and partner professional organizations to extend those waivers to CPR was denied by CMS. Subsequently, there has been no response from CMS to a second request we made in May seeking various options for our programs to maintain contact, offer education and counseling, and psychosocial support, to fill the gap created when patient care was essentially halted due to the need to focus on the PHE. Obviously, CMS and our health care systems have been overwhelmed by the demands resulting from the pandemic but CPR are important services, and to that end, AACVPR will continue to reach out to CMS for the ability to meet patients’ needs remotely, but we need the advocacy of our AACVPR members to improve the odds of our success.
We need each one of you to reach out to your two U.S. Senators and one U.S Representative asking they urge CMS to respond to our requests for billable options of telehealth reimbursement for all CPR program service. Provide this template letter for Congressional members to send to Ms. Seema Verma, Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, US Department of Health and Human Services.
The letter calls for a response from CMS to multiple requests for a waiver that would allow CPR services to be provided to Medicare beneficiaries remotely using telehealth real-time audio/visual technology during this PHE. Our actions today will shape our future and your engagement is critical now as many programs are unable to re-open safely or are reopening at less than 50% capacity. Our CPR programs are quite vulnerable as witnessed by permanent program closures. The latter has further exacerbated shortages of these beneficial services.
I ask you to participate in this Call to Action to shape our AACVPR future!