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CMS Issues Relaxed Telemedicine Rules

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid issued a new rule that will make it easier for hospitals to use telemedicine when treating patients. The final rule, which takes effect sixty days following its publication, removes unnecessary burdens for hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) to use telemedicine to serve patients in a timelier manner. These benefits will also reach rural hospitals and CAHs with limited access to primary care physicians and specialists.

Currently, any hospital or CAH that receives telemedicine services must undertake an extensive credentialing and privileging process for each physician or practitioner who will provide the telemedicine services to the patients. CMS concluded that its current requirements were often duplicative and unnecessarily burdensome, particularly for small hospitals and CAHs. It recognized that small hospitals and CAHs do not have access to a medical staff with the requisite clinical expertise to evaluate and privilege the various specialty physicians that could provide the hospital with telemedicine services. However, through the final rule, CMS will now permit hospitals and CAHs to implement a streamlined credentialing and privileging process for these telemedicine providers. Specifically, a hospital or CAH that provides telemedicine services to patients through an agreement with another hospital or telemedicine entity may rely on the information from that other entity when making credentialing and privileging decisions about the providers at the other site who will supply the medical services through telemedicine.

For any questions regarding compliance issues related to telemedicine services, please contact a Wachler & Associates attorney at 248-544-0888.

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