CMS eases telemedicine restrictions

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a final rule that revises the conditions of participation (CoPs) for hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs), easing the “burdensome” credentialing and privileging process for physicians and practitioners providing telemedicine services, according to the agency.

Currently, hospitals and CAHs must conduct credentialing and privileging process for each physician and practitioner who will provide telemedicine services to its patients. “This final rule will remove this undue hardship and financial burden,” CMS stated.

The revised CoPs:

  • Make federal requirements more flexible for rural and/or small hospitals and for CAHs; and
  • Encourage innovative approaches to patient-service delivery.

Currently, a hospital’s governing body is required to appoint all practitioners to its hospital medical staff and to grant privileges using the recommendations of its medical staff. The hospital medical staff must use a credentialing and privileging process for all physicians who provide telemedicine services.

These requirements don’t take into account practitioners who provide only telemedicine services to patients; consequently, hospitals apply the credentialing and privileging requirements as if all practitioners were onsite, according to the agency.

According to the final revised rule, published May 5 in the Federal Register, it is the responsibility of “the governing body of the hospital providing the telemedicine services [the distant-site hospital] to meet the existing requirements … with regard to its physicians and practitioners who are providing telemedicine services.” 

“These existing provisions cover the distant-site hospital’s governing body responsibilities for its medical staff that all Medicare-participating hospitals must meet.”