CMS proposes less burdensome telemedicine credentialing rules

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed changes to ease the burdens of credentialing and privileging for hospitals that provide telemedicine.

The proposed rule would revise the conditions of participation (CoPs) for both hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs). It would allow hospitals to rely on information provided from another location to base credentialing and privileging decisions regarding physicians and practitioners that will use telemedicine at their facility.

CMS officials said the proposed rule comes because of the current duplicative and burdensome credentialing process that is particularly difficult for small hospitals that lack the resources to conduct a traditional credentialing process for all the providers that may provide telemedicine services at their facilities.

The current Medicare hospital conditions of participation for credentialing and privileging of medical staff require the governing body of a hospital to make all privileging decisions based upon the recommendations of its medical staff after the medical staff has thoroughly examined and verified the credentials of practitioners applying for privileges. It also specifies specific criteria that must be used to determine whether an individual practitioner should be privileged at the hospital.

According to CMS, the new rule would allow hospitals to use a third party credentialing verification organization to compile and verify the credentials of practitioners applying for privileges. The hospital's governing body would still responsible for making all privileging decisions.

CMS is also proposing to add a new requirement that would allow the distant-site hospital to evaluate the quality and appropriateness of the diagnosis and treatment furnished by its own staff when providing telemedicine services to a critical access hospital.

According to CMS, the proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register on May 26 and will allow a 60-day comment period. The website for online comments is http://www.regulations.gov. CMS said those who wish to comment should refer to file code CMS-3227-P. 

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