Written by: Sarah Beth Smith* and Ellen Janos
The American Telemedicine Association (ATA) is now accepting limited registrations for organizations that wish to gain ATA’s seal of approval for online medical services. Registration for the new Accreditation Program for Online Patient Consultations (Accreditation Program) opened on December 15th. The purpose of the Accreditation Program is to recognize organizations that provide safe and high quality online patient healthcare services for the benefit of both consumers and payers. On Tuesday, ATA reported in its monthly webinar series that about 50 organizations have already registered to begin the application process for accreditation.
Any U.S. organization that provides real-time, interactive audio-visual online services directly to the consumer is eligible to register and apply for accreditation. Accreditation is not yet available for services provided via store-and-forward technology. However, ATA has stated that it is not opposed to providing telehealth through store and forward technology and thus left open the possibility for accrediting these services in the future as store-and-forward technology becomes more widely used and accepted. The Accreditation Program is focused on the quality of services provided, not the specific technology used. A physician practice can be accredited even if it uses another entity’s online platform to provide online medical services, as long as the platform is HIPAA-compliant.
The standards of the Accreditation Program are based on federal and state regulations, best practices, and input from stakeholders. The standards focus on three areas of compliance: operational policies and procedures, clinical practice areas, and consumer protection. Because there are no tiers or levels of accreditation, organizations must satisfy all of the Accreditation Program’s standards in order to be accredited. ATA has cautioned that state medical boards can take very different positions on certain topics like online prescribing practices. Accredited organizations will still need to comply with the applicable rules in the states in which they provide services and not rely on accreditation as evidence of legal compliance.
During the application process, ATA will conduct a survey of the organization, which includes reviewing documentation submitted with the application as well as observing a demonstration of the organization’s online services. Once accredited, the organization can use ATA’s seal on its website and marketing materials, and ATA will promote the accredited organization. ATA has not announced a timeline for how long the accreditation process will take.
ATA has opened registration on a rolling basis. Currently, registration is only open to ATA Institutional Members and Circle Members until the end of February. On March 1, registration will be available to all interested parties.
*Sarah Beth is admitted in Virginia only, practicing under the supervision and guidance of Members of the DC office.