QUESTION: Our hospital received a couple of million dollars from the COVID-19 Provider Relief Fund. We are in the process of being acquired by a larger health system. Will we have to send the money back?
ANSWER: It depends on the form of the acquisition.
HHS recently posted the following on its Provider Relief Fund FAQ Page:
If the transaction is a purchase of the recipient entity (e.g., a purchase of its stock or membership interests), then the Provider Relief Fund recipient may continue to use the funds, regardless of its new owner. But if the transaction is an asset purchase (whether for some or all of the Provider Relief Fund recipient’s assets), then the original recipient must use the funds for its eligible expenses and lost revenues and return any unused funds to HHS. In these circumstances, the Provider Relief Fund money does not transfer to the buyer, however, buyers in these circumstances will be eligible to apply for future Provider Relief Fund payments. If a bankrupt recipient is liquidated, it must similarly use the funds for its eligible expenses and lost revenues and return any unused funds to HHS.
QUESTION: In an effort to manage exposure during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are trying to expand the use of telehealth throughout our system. Do we need to grant “telemedicine privileges” to Medical Staff members who have already been credentialed and privileged before the pandemic started if they are now using telehealth to treat patients remotely? We are Joint Commission accredited.
ANSWER: This question seems to be coming up a lot. Fortunately, The Joint Commission has given out some good guidance on how to handle this issue during the COVID crisis. In an FAQ document, The Joint Commission has advised:
“Licensed Independent Practitioners (LIP) CURRENTLY credentialed and privileged by the organization, who would now provide the same services via a telehealth link to patients, would not require any additional credentialing or privileging. The medical staff determines which services would be appropriate to be delivered via a telehealth link. There is no requirement that ‘telehealth’ be delineated as a separate privilege.” (Emphasis added.)
This Standards FAQ can be found here.
In light of this guidance, there does not appear to be a need to grant telemedicine privileges to physicians or other practitioners who have already been granted clinical privileges simply because they are now delivering services via telehealth. In light of the statement that the “medical staff determines which services would be appropriate to be delivered via a telehealth link,” it may be prudent to have your MEC weigh in on what services can be provided in this fashion.