Proposed rule clarifies disclosure regs for physician-owned hospitals

A new proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) would modify current Stark Law regulations for physician-owned hospitals.

Federal law has required physician-owned providers to disclose their physician-owned status on public websites or advertising since 2011. But since this requirement was implemented, the question of whether it covers social media has often come up, according to a piece written by Andrea L. Impicciche and Alyssa C. James, who both work for the firm Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman PC. 

The proposed rule clarifies that social media pages are generally not considered public websites, as their content generally differs significantly from that of a hospital site. For example, information such as a hospital's history, leadership structure or mission statement is generally available on the hospital's site but not its social media pages.

CMS also proposes to exempt sites such as electronic health information exchanges or electronic patient care and payment portals from the requirement, noting that they are not accessible to the general public. The rule notes, however, that sites that do not meet the CMS definition of a public website may still be considered public advertising depending on the circumstances.

The proposed rule would define public advertising for the hospital as public, hospital-funded communication aimed at persuading consumers to seek care there. This excludes advertising created for recruitment or community outreach, as well as public service announcements. It also defines more clearly what qualifies as sufficient notice of physician ownership. Recommended language includes:

  • Founded by physicians
  • Managed by physicians
  • Operated by physicians
  • Part of a health network that includes physician-owned hospitals

A hospital name can also serve as sufficient notice, according to CMS. For example, "Doctors' Hospital at Main Street" would indicate that a provider was physician-owned, the proposed rule states.

To learn more:
- here's the proposed rule (.pdf)
- read the Hall Render Killian Heath & Lyman piece