CMS delays telemedicine requirements until March 2011
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has delayed the Joint Commission’s requirement to implement CMS telemedicine standards for both general and critical access hospitals until March 2011.

Until receipt of this extension from CMS, Joint Commission-accredited hospitals were expected to implement by July 15 new elements of performance to conform to Medicare’s credentialing and privileging requirement for telehealth services.

Due to issuing a new proposed regulation on telemedicine that will affect Medicare’s credentialing and privileging standards, CMS granted the telemedicine extension.

The required changes to the telemedicine standards were part of the Joint Commission’s application to CMS for continued hospital-deeming authority. This required the commission to add specificity to its standards as a way to demonstrate equivalency with the Medicare hospital requirements.

Since the changes were announced in September 2009, the Joint Commission has engaged CMS and members of Congress regarding the issue of credentialing and privileging by proxy as it relates to telemedicine providers and users.

The Joint Commission, believing the CMS requirements placed an undue burden on many organizations without improving the quality of services, has stated that there would be an adverse effect on the access to some telehealth services if organizations are not allowed to comply with the original Joint Commission requirements addressing credentialing and privileging by proxy.

The Joint Commission stated it plans to comment on the proposed rule by the July 26 deadline.