CMS Issues Guidance on Providing Essential Non-COVID-19 Care in Low Incidence Areas

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued new recommendations to re-open health care systems to patients without symptoms of COVID-19 in regions with a "low and stable" reported incidence of COVID-19.

The new guidance, part of Phase 1 of the Administration's Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, updates the Agency's earlier recommendations to more strictly limit non-essential surgeries and medical procedures.

CMS stresses that the guidance is "not meant to be implemented by every state, county or city at this time" and the decision of whether beginning Phase 1 is appropriate must first be made by local and state officials.

Before entering Phase 1, states or regions must meet specific gating criteria regarding symptoms, cases and hospitals. A gradual transition to proving care is encouraged, while coordinating with local and state public health officials and evaluating availability of the workforce, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other factors prior to and during implementation. States or regions that do not meet the Phase 1 criteria are urged to continue following the Agency's earlier recommendations.

"Every state and local official will need to assess the situation on the ground to determine the best course forward, but these guidelines provide a gradual process for restarting non-COVID-19 essential care while keeping patients safe," explained CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

Clinicians and patients are still encouraged to use telehealth services and to limit in-person exposure when remote appointments are possible to limit and reduce spread of the virus.

The ACC has also developed resources for patients urging them not to avoid seeking medical attention for heart attack or chest pain because of the pandemic. These resources are available here.

Read the full recommendations.

Keywords: ACC Advocacy, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, U.S., Personal Protective Equipment, Coronavirus, Coronavirus Infections, COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, Telemedicine

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