The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made a statement in support of telemedicine by streamlining the credentialing and privileging of telehealth providers delivering services to Medicare hospitals. By simplifying how hospitals and non-hospital providers privilege doctors who remotely treat patients, CMS has lowered the administrative burden of delivering telehealth and telemedicine services.
The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) last week called on the CMS  to use its authority to waive the restriction-riddled Medicare telemedicine statute for the new Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs).
The new rule  particularly helps small hospitals in rural and isolated areas by making it easier to access remote specialty services via telemedicine. Medicare will now privilege telehealth practices such as teleradiology, teleICU and telestroke, whether they are delivered directly by the hospital or by an outside clinical vendor.
“CMS’ new rules will truly help patients receive the care they need, no matter where they live or where their doctor is located,” said Dale Alverson, MD, President of the American Telemedicine Association. “By eliminating the overly burdensome credentialing and privileging rules in Medicare, CMS has shown it’s growing support of telemedicine.”
The American Telemedicine Association has actively petitioned CMS to ease privileging obstacles and comments from ATA members were instrumental in the outcome of the final rule.
“CMS was very responsive to the comments and concerns of the telemedicine community,” said Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association. “The privileging of private telemedicine providers in Medicare hospitals was not in the draft rule; the subsequent addition of these vital telehealth service providers reflects the comments of ATA and its members.”
The final rule was announced May 2, 2011 and will go into effect July 2, 2011.