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News and Publications

Telehealth guidance, MIPS extension, COVID letters address prior auth, RO support & timely info

March 25, 2020


ASTRO issues telehealth guidance during COVID-19 public health emergency
ASTRO has issued guidance based on the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services' (CMS) recent decision to temporarily expand the use of telehealth services provided to Medicare beneficiaries during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Radiation oncologists now have greater ability to leverage digital communications technology so they may continue to provide patient care during the pandemic. In addition to providing radiation oncology practices with information regarding proper coding for telehealth services, ASTRO has sought CMS approval to extend telehealth flexibilities to On Treatment Visits (OTVs).


MIPS 2019 reporting deadline extension
The 2019 MIPS data submission window is now extended through 8:00 p.m. Eastern time on April 30, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on health care providers. CMS is implementing additional policy exceptions and extensions for upcoming measure reporting and data submission deadlines. This means that MIPS-eligible clinicians who have not submitted any 2019 MIPS data by April 30, 2020, will qualify for the automatic extreme and uncontrollable circumstances policy and will receive a neutral payment adjustment for the 2021 MIPS payment year. CMS is currently evaluating options for providing relief around participation and data submission for 2020. Final feedback will be available in summer 2020. Please see the ASTRO website for additional information on 2019 reporting and to plan your 2020 data collection, and contact us with any questions.


ASTRO led and supported letters on COVID-19:

ASTRO tells payers to halt prior authorization during COVID-19 emergency
On March 19, ASTRO urged
United Healthcare, Aetna and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, as well as CMS and radiation oncology benefit managers AIM, eviCore and Healthhelp to suspend radiation therapy prior authorization requirements in an effort to reduce administrative burden during the COVID-19 public health emergency. ASTRO is interested in hearing about other policies that prevent radiation oncologists from treating cancer patients and supporting the COVID-19 response. For more information about this effort, please see What’s Happening in Washington.

Medical specialties ask Trump administration for physician COVID-19 help
The Council of Medical Specialty Societies, of which ASTRO is a member, wrote the Trump administration’s Coronavirus Task Force recommending specific actions to support physicians’ response to the COVID-19 outbreak. CMSS asked the administration to address basic supplies and protective equipment, telehealth, financial assistance for practices and removal of administrative barriers, among other issues facing radiation oncology and other specialists. For more information, visit www.cmss.org.

ASTRO joins physician orgs in request for COVID-19 information
ASTRO joined 20 other organizations representing front-line physicians in a request to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create a mechanism for providing the organizations with regular, timely and relevant COVID-19 information to communicate to members. The organizations recommend a twice weekly conference call that would include an appropriate public health representative from the administration to ensure robust lines of communication that ensure an effective and well-coordinated response to treat and protect people. For more details, read What’s Happening in Washington.


ASTRO’s State Regulatory Library available for state regulatory requirements
Have questions about state licensure requirements for your treatment team as you navigate treating patients in the time of COVID-19? ASTRO’s State Regulatory Library is available to help. The library is a state-by-state set of links to regulations governing the use of ionizing radiation and radioactive materials. The library also contains links to state radiation protection programs for specific questions about your state’s regulations, as well as a link to the Federation of State Medical Boards’ COVID-19 resource page.


ASTRO APEx practice accreditation discount continues through March
ASTRO’s Patient Safety Awareness discount on the Accreditation Program for Excellence (APEx®) continues through March. To be eligible for the $1,500 discount off the total application price, practices need to start an APEx application during the month of March. The application includes providing practice information (e.g., annual number of new patients treated, treatments offered, equipment and physician names), signing a facility agreement and HIPAA business associate agreement and submitting payment. To learn more about the program, visit the APEx webpage. For questions about this offer or APEx in general, contact ASTRO staff.


New Red Journal podcast now available
There are few fully accrued contemporary studies that randomize patients to surgery or radiation for curative treatment of a solid tumor. Featured in the Red Journal’s latest Oncology Scan, the ORATOR 1 clinical trial is one such study of head and neck cancer that compared primary transoral robotic surgery versus radiation therapy for treatment of oropharynx cancer, with a patient reported quality of life primary endpoint. Join Red Journal associate editor Danielle Margalit, MD, as she discusses the trial with authors Anthony Nichols, MD, FRCSC, FACS, and David Palma, MD, PhD, FRCPC, and special guest Kate Hutcheson, PhD, speech pathologist and expert in patient reported outcome assessment. The ORATOR 1 trial provides information for patient counseling and decision-making when considering the trade-off of different treatment modalities. The podcast is available on iTunes and other podcast platforms and on the Red Journal website.


There is still time to submit your manuscripts for Advances in Radiation Oncology’s Special Collections
Advances is considering papers from the following topic areas: Achieving data reproducibility across the lifecycle of research, advancing radiation oncology practice through clinical application of data sciences and the advancing practice of reirradiation in radiation oncology. Review the call for papers for more details on the specifics of each collection. Manuscripts should be submitted to Advances in Radiation Oncology’s editorial management system by May 31. For additional information, please contact Advances staff.


eviCore to update hippocampal avoidance whole-brain IMRT policy
ASTRO has confirmed that eviCore will update its Radiation Oncology Guidelines to permit coverage for hippocampal avoidance (HA) whole-brain Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). eviCore stated that staff are authorized to approve requests for HA whole-brain IMRT for appropriate patients while the guidelines are being updated. For more information, read What’s Happening in Washington.