CMS Issues Final Rule Recognizing Telehealth for Medicare Providers

May 8, 2014 in News

On Wednesday, CMS issued a final rule that recognizes the benefits telehealth technologies have to offer Medicare hospitals and providers in remote areas, Modern Healthcare reports.

Background

The new regulation — which aims to reduce unnecessary, obsolete or overly burdensome Medicare regulations for hospitals and other providers — stems from an executive order that President Obama issued in 2012. The order tasked federal agencies to take steps to eliminate outdated and rigid regulations.

In February 2013, CMS — in a proposed rule that received more than 400 comments — highlighted specific regulations that it planned to eliminate in response to the executive order.

Final Rule’s Impact on Telemedicine

The new rule eliminates a requirement that physicians travel to rural or federally qualified health clinics at least once every two weeks, which CMS said is in recognition of physicians’ use of telemedicine in remote areas (Dickson, Modern Healthcare, 5/7).

It states, “Recent improvements in, and expansion of, telemedicine services allow for physicians to provide certain types of care to remote facilities at lower costs.” However, CMS said, such clinics “will continue to be required to have a physician onsite for sufficient periods of time depending on the needs of the facility and its patients” (CMS final rule, 5/7). 

Other Rule Changes

The new rule also:

  • Permits registered dieticians and qualified nutritionists to prescribe diets for patients without a physician’s prior approval;
  • Gives more flexibility to ambulatory surgical care facilities that have to meet supervision requirements for radiological services;
  • Allows nuclear medicine technicians in hospitals to prepare radiopharmaceuticals without the constant supervision of a doctor or pharmacist; and
  • Eliminates a repetitive data submission requirement and survey process for transplant facilities.

Agency officials said that under the final rule, health care providers would save an estimated $660 million annually and about $3.2 billion over five years (Modern Healthcare, 5/7).

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