Group Urges CMS to Update Hospital Policy to Reflect Telemedicine's Benefits

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In a comment letter on a proposed rule, the American Telemedicine Association asked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to revise hospital conditions of participation to better accommodate the uses of telemedicine services.

In the Dec. 22 letter addressed to acting CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, the group recommended that telemedicine services be covered in four main types of care: emergency care, stroke care, critical and intensive care, and hospital readmission.

Specifically, Medicare participation conditions should be amended to include videoconferencing to provide around-the-clock care while also reducing costs to hospitals, ATA said.

“With over twenty years of experience using telemedicine to access remote medical expertise in thousands of health facilities throughout the country, the time is right (if not overdue) to update the [Medicare] conditions of participation accordingly,” Jonathan D. Linkous, chief executive officer of the ATA, said in the letter.

Benefits Outlined

These inclusions would produce benefits for providers, patients, and hospitals, including:

• 24-hour access to emergency and specialist care for patients;

• the ability for providers to treat patients without having to travel to facilities at odd hours or travel long distances to patients; and

• the ability for hospitals to provide specialty and emergency services in off hours by sharing arrangements with other facilities, reducing the burden of duplicative and costly staffing.

For hospital readmissions, ATA urged CMS to require staff to assess the likelihood of patients being readmitted to hospitals.

“Such a change would augment the priority of CMS to reduce unnecessary readmissions across the country,” ATA wrote.

The comment letter was submitted to CMS on a proposed rule (CMS-3244-P) to revise the requirements that hospitals and critical access hospitals must meet to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The proposal was published in the Federal Register Oct. 24 (76 Fed. Reg. 65891).

ATA also recently proposed legislation to expand Medicaid coverage to telemedicine services for high risk maternal health and neonatal care (see previous article).

The ATA letter is available at . The proposed CMS rule on conditions of participation is at .