The National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC) is pursuing changes at the federal level to allow RHCs to be distant sites for telehealth visits.
Medicare’s telehealth regulations define acceptable originating sites (where the patient is located) and distant sites (where the treating provider is located). Currently, RHCs can only be the originating site for a telehealth encounter.
NARHC believes there are great opportunities for RHCs to use telehealth as distant sites in order to share resources. For example, access to mental health services is lacking in many rural areas. RHCs in smaller communities may not have enough patients to justify hiring a full-time mental health professional. If RHCs could be distant sites, one RHC’s mental health professional could see patients in their clinic in-person and serve patients in other RHCs via telehealth. The RHC employing the mental health professional would bill the telehealth visits as RHC visits and get paid their all-inclusive rate.
MARHC is also working on a telehealth reform bill at the state level that, among other provisions, would authorize RHCs as distant sites in the Medicaid program.
You can view information NARHC submitted to Congress and CMS on telehealth here and a statement from CMS on telehealth in rural areas here.