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CMS final rule eases credentialing burden for telemedicine services

Up until recently, hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) looking to provide telemedicine services to their patients had to go through a burdensome credentialing and privileging process for each physician and practitioner providing service. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has eased this burden with the release of its final rule, which revised the conditions of participation (CoPs) for both hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs).

The final rule will permit hospitals and CAHs to implement a new credentialing and privileging process for
physicians and practitioners providing telemedicine services. The revisions will also provide more flexibility to small hospitals and CAHs in rural areas and regions.

According to the CMS, removing some of the barriers to the use of telemedicine could help enable patients to receive more timely  medical interventions. This  could enhance patient follow-up in the management of chronic disease conditions and may provide a cost-effective alternative to traditional service delivery approaches.

Though telemedicine has been around for many years, it is poised for rapid expansion, and the release of this final rule could give it a real boost.

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The CMS telemedicine credentialing and privileging Conditions of Participation have been challenging for hospitals, particularly those using Joint Commission (TJC) accreditation for deemed status. That is because hospitals using the TJC “privileging-by-proxy” telemedicine standards have not technically been meeting CMS requirements – a situation which has been problematic and confusing for hospitals.While the CMS final rule does more closely align with TJC “privileging-by-proxy” concept it is not yet clear how the new CMS regulations and TJC standards will align. While TJC is expected to conform to CMS regulations, you may want to wait for a response from TJC before implementing any changes.