The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed allowing physician reimbursement for video chats and check-ins, eliciting praise from the industry.

The agency announced the move, which would start paying for virtual visits beyond rural areas of the country, on July 13.

CMS also said it wants to cover doctors who evaluate patient-submitted photos or who monitor chronic conditions via smartphone.

“This is a big issue for the elderly and disabled population for which transportation can be a barrier to care,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said. “We’re not intending to replace office visits but rather to augment them and create new access points for patients.”

Jim Yocum, a senior vice president at Connecture, called the proposed switch a “sea change” for the field. Krista Drobac, executive director of the Alliance for Connected Care, said she hopes Congress will give the Health and Human Services secretary the ability to waive telehealth restrictions for all provider codes.