Joint Commission sees strong demand for accreditation

November 1, 2006

While CMS may not consider such accreditation sufficient, many companies still seek it

While CMS may not consider such accreditation sufficient, many companies still seek it

Certification by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has become a useful way for teleradiology companies to speed up the process of getting credentialed by local providers. By the end of the year, as many as two dozen will have signed up for the program.

JCAHO has offered accreditation to teleradiology companies under its ambulatory care organization rules since 2003. Local providers of imaging services that require JCAHO accreditation for teleradiology companies with which they contract can avoid the more rigorous checks they would need to conduct on their own.

The commission sets a number of administrative performance requirements for ambulatory care providers. A crucial one for teleradiology providers is that they be boarded in the U.S.

"Accrediting simplifies the process of getting the hospital contract," said Mike Dye, senior associate director of business development for JCAHO. "Accreditation from the Joint Commission is often all the hospital needs. It has usually gone through the same process to vouch for its own radiologists."

Not all agree that JCAHO accreditation will be sufficient, however. An August 2006 report from HortySpringer publications suggests that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not approve of "privileging by proxy" and expects hospitals to credential and privilege teleradiologists through their medical staff process.

Despite that report, CMS hasn't come down firmly with a ruling on the issue or taken any action to enforce that position, said Michael Kulczycki, executive director of ambulatory care accreditation programs for JCAHO.

"The Joint Commission vice president of standards has been in discussions with CMS about that issue for almost a year. It is not final," Kulczycki said.

Many of the larger teleradiology companies either have or are seeking JCAHO accreditation, although there remain dozens of mostly smaller providers that have not. In addition to those who are in the process of obtaining accreditation, another 50 or so have inquired, Dye said.

It costs about $8000 to obtain a diagnostic accreditation that is valid for three years. Periodic reviews will be conducted during that time, including one unannounced site visit in the third year.