On May 2, 2011, CMS released a final rule (the Final Rule) revising the conditions of participation (CoPs) for both hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs), scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on May 5, 2011. The Final Rule is an attempt to streamline the credentialing and privileging process for practitioners who provide telemedicine services to hospital or CAH patients. Currently, the CoPs require all practitioners providing services to patients to go through the same credentialing and privileging process, even if those practitioners are only providing services remotely through telemedicine capabilities. The Final Rule allows hospitals and CAHs to rely on the credentialing and privileging process of the facility where the practitioner is located (the distant cite), provided that the hospital or CAH and the distant cite have an agreement in place and the distant cite meets CMS standards (even if it is not a Medicare-participating provider). The Final Rule will take effect 60 days from publication, July 4, 2011, assuming a May 5, 2011, publication date.
What’s at Stake
CMS anticipates that the removal of unnecessary barriers to the use of telemedicine may improve access to and quality of care by enabling patients to receive medically necessary interventions in a more timely manner and enhancing patient follow-up in the management of chronic disease conditions. These revisions may also provide some relief to small hospitals and CAHs in rural areas with a shortage of primary care and specialized providers, by providing easier access to these practitioners through telemedicine.
Steps to Consider
- If a hospital or CAH does not already access practitioners via telemedicine, consider whether there are “gaps” in services available to patients that could be alleviated through telemedicine.
- Identify a distant cite that may be a source of practitioners.
- Keep in mind that the distant cite must meet CMS standards with regard to its credentialing and privileging process.
- Develop thoughtful arrangements with distant cites to facilitate telemedicine services.