With the last days of 2021 winding down, some parts of the country are as deeply embedded in the COVID-19 pandemic as they’ve ever been. In New York City, urgent care centers are seeing up to five times their normal volume while at the same time grappling with staffing shortages (which are at least partially due to the virus to begin with). Patients need care for all the “normal” urgent care complaints while locations are also flooded with people concerned they have the virus or clamoring for a COVID-19 test to ensure they don’t. With giving up the fight not being an option, some urgent care operators are having to think outside the box. Assuming they’re not too wiped out by their own symptoms, even providers who are quarantining can take on telemedicine consults. Remember that under telemedicine parity laws, virtual visits for COVID-19 screening can be reimbursed at the same rates as in-person visits (with the specimen then being collected by the medical assistant, if needed). And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services allows use of code 99211 for COVID testing even if there is no provider on-site; this includes submitting and reviewing lab orders, which normally would be a provider task. For more insights, see the American Medical Association’s slide show, Special Coding Advice During COVID-19 Public Health Emergency. Maryland state health officials put together another document that could be helpful, as well. With new drugs approved for treatment of COVID-19, there could be a light at the end of the tunnel. With widespread availability a ways off, however, it’s still a pretty long tunnel.
Urgent Care Will Have to Get Creative to Solve Staffing and Pandemic Crises. Are You Up to It?