QUESTION: Our hospital policies allow almost anyone to order outpatient services, regardless of whether they are a member of the Medical Staff or not. Is this a problem?
ANSWER: This poses compliance issues under the Medicare Conditions of Participation (“CoPs”). The CoPs only allow outpatient services to be ordered by practitioners who meet certain conditions. The ordering practitioner must be (1) responsible for the patient, (2) licensed in the state where he or she provides care to the patient, (3) acting within his or her scope of practice under state law, and (4) authorized by state law and policies adopted by the Medical Staff (with approval from the governing body) to order the applicable outpatient services.
Your Medical Staff policies can reflect a determination as to whether practitioners who are not on your Medical Staff are permitted to order outpatient services. However, these policies must address how you will verify that the referring/ordering practitioner meets the requirements in the CoPs. You will need to keep documentation to show that you have complied with the CoPs (e.g., documents showing that you checked the ordering practitioner’s license).
If you permit allied health professionals not affiliated with your hospital to order outpatient services, you may have to do a significant amount of work. Be sure to check their scope of practice to make sure they are permitted to order the service in question. In addition, be sure to follow the laws of your own state!
You may decide that certain orders should be permitted only by individuals with specific hospital privileges. The Interpretive Guidelines give the example of requiring practitioners to have hospital privileges before they can place an order for outpatient chemotherapy services. If you do this, be sure to delineate these terms clearly in your policies.