CMS extends telemedicine standards' deadline for Joint Commission hospitals

By Molly Merrill
09:48 AM

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have extended The Joint Commission's requirement to implement CMS telemedicine standards for both general and critical access hospitals until March 2011.

CMS had originally set a July 15, 2010, deadline for Joint Commission accredited hospitals to implement new elements of performance to conform to Medicare's credentialing and privileging requirement for telehealth services.

Last month, at the American Telemedicine Association meeting Aneesh Chopra, President Barack Obama's federal Chief Technology Officer had said CMS was "actively working" to address the Joint Commission Standards for Credentialing and Privileging – in particular, the issue of credentialing healthcare workers involved in telehealth projects that stretch across state borders, an ongoing issue that has, in the past, been hotly debated between CMS and ATA officials.

Less than a week later CMS issued a new proposed regulation on telemedicine. The new proposed regulation 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. This regulation will not be finalized until sometime in the future, said officials.

The rule, which was published the Federal Register on May 26, is in a 60-day comment period. Officials said the Joint Commission plans to comment on the proposed rule by the July 26 deadline and urges hospitals to do the same.

Joint Commission officials have made the argument that the CMS requirements placed an undue burden on many organizations without improving the quality of services, provider accountability and the effectiveness of the credentialing and privileging processes or their accountability.