The Joint Commission Applauds CMS' Revised Telemedicine Requirements

(OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. - May 6, 2011) The Joint Commission applauds the publication of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) new Telemedicine Credentialing and Privileging requirements. With this new rule, which becomes effective on July 5, 2011, CMS has taken a giant step in removing unnecessary barriers to the use of telemedicine for medically necessary interventions. These updates respond to The Joint Commission's stance on the need to limit overly burdensome requirements that may impede patient access to health care services. 

The rule, which applies to all hospitals that participate in Medicare, and inpatients at critical access hospitals (CAH), upholds The Joint Commission's current practice of allowing the hospital or CAH to utilize information from the distant-site hospital or other accredited telemedicine entity when making credentialing or privileging decisions for the distant-site physicians and practitioners.

"The Joint Commission is very pleased that CMS has revised its telemedicine requirements to provide more flexibility to hospitals and lessen their regulatory burden. This is an especially positive step for improving access to care for patients in rural areas," says Mark R. Chassin, M.D., FACP, M.P.P., M.P.H., president, The Joint Commission. "Of particular importance is the fact that critical access hospitals will have additional avenues to benefit from the services of particularly skilled physicians and practitioners."

For the past three years, The Joint Commission has engaged CMS and members of Congress regarding CMS' approach to the credentialing and privileging of telemedicine providers. The Joint Commission took the position that there would be an adverse effect on the access to telemedicine services if Joint Commission-accredited hospitals were not allowed to use, for telemedicine practitioners, the credentialing and privileging decisions made by other Joint Commission-accredited facilities, especially since these facilities are held to the same rigorous requirements. The Joint Commission believes that the previous CMS requirements placed an undue burden on many organizations because they did not improve the quality of services, the accountability of physicians and practitioners, or the effectiveness of the credentialing and privileging processes.

The Joint Commission will be evaluating its telemedicine requirements to reaffirm that they remain aligned with the requirements of CMS.

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Founded in 1951, The Joint Commission seeks to continuously improve health care for the public, in collaboration with other stakeholders, by evaluating health care organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The Joint Commission evaluates and accredits more than 19,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States, including more than 10,300 hospitals and home care organizations, and more than 6,500 other health care organizations that provide long term care, behavioral health care, laboratory and ambulatory care services. The Joint Commission also provides certification of more than 2,000 disease-specific care programs, primary stroke centers, and health care staffing services. An independent, not-for-profit organization, The Joint Commission is the nation's oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in health care. Learn more about The Joint Commission at www.jointcommission.org.

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