Credentialing and Privileging Telemedicine Physician and Practitioner

Last week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule revising the conditions of participation (CoPs) for hospitals and critical access hospitals allowing for a new credentialing and privileging process for physicians and practitioners who provide telemedicine services. The proposed rule should make it easier on smaller hospital (especially critical access hospitals) who don’t have the in-house medical staff to adequately evaluate and privilege a wide range of specialty physicians who provide services through telemedicine.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on May 26, 2010, and titled, Credentialing and Privileging of Telemedicine Physicians and Practitioners, 75 Fed Reg 29479 (May 26, 2010). Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted by July 26, 2010.

Traditionally the CoPs have required the governing body of the hospital to make all privileging decisions based on the recommendations of its medical staff using specific criteria. Hospitals often use third-party credentialing verification services to assist in compiling the voluminous documents needed to verify credentialing and then have the governing body of the hospital review and sign off on the privileging decision.

The proposed rule points out that there has been a Joint Commission standard policy that allows “privileging by proxy,” which has been in direct conflict with CoPs. “Privileging by proxy” allows Joint Commission accredited hospitals to utilize a different methodology to privilege”distant-site” physicians and practitioners. Basically, allowing one Joint Commissioned accredited hospital to accept the privileging decisions of another Joint Commissioned accredited hospital. In the past, hospitals were deemed (deemed status) to meet the CoPs if they were accredited by the Joint Commission. However, changes in the Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA) will halt (effective July 15, 2010) the statutory recognition of the Joint Commission’s hospital accreditation program and now requires the Joint Commission to meet CMS standards in order to confer Medicare deemed status.

CMS has decided that requiring each hospital to independently privilege providers is a duplicative and burdensome process, especially for small hospitals who often use telemedicine services from larger academic medical centers and hospitals to provide access to needed specialty services. Thus, CMS is proposing in the rule to revise the hospital credentialing and privileging requirements to allow a hospital who obtains telemedicine services by agreement with another hospital that the agreement can specify that the hospital providing the telemedicine services is responsible for credentialing the telemedicine provider and can provide this information to the medical staff of the hospital receiving the telemedicine services who can then rely upon the credentialing and privileging decisions of the hospital providing the telemedicine services.

For a more detailed discussion and understanding of the proposed revisions read the proposed rule in the May 26, 2010, Federal Register.