An organized advocacy campaign has persuaded the federal government to allow pathologists to work remotely during the COVID-19 crisis.
The Trump administration announced a temporary waiver giving pathologists the regulatory flexibility that has been requested by numerous healthcare groups, led by the College of American Pathologists (CAP).
Traditionally, the Centers for Medicare & Medicare Services (CMS) requires pathologists to work in a Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA)-certified location. Securing a CLIA certificate can take months or longer. But CMS has now announced that during this public health emergency, it will exercise enforcement discretion to ensure pathologists may review pathology slides remotely.
In addition, the CLIA regulations for cytology state that cytology slide preparations must be evaluated on the premises of a laboratory certified to conduct testing in the subspecialty of cytology. However, as has been done in previous public health emergencies, the agency is exercising enforcement discretion and it will not enforce the requirement to have a separate certificate for laboratories that are located at temporary testing sites, provided that the designated primary site or home base has a CLIA certificate and the work being performed in the temporary testing site falls within the parameters of the primary site’s certificate.
The CAP mobilized its members to directly lobby CMS and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to give pathologists the workforce flexibility they need to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. This successful grassroots effort also spurred Congress to respond on March 25 with a letter signed by 37 members of the House of Representatives pressing CMS to grant the waiver. CAP had worked with the letter’s leaders, Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), to gather the signatures in just 48 hours.
The CAP campaign further marshaled support from the greater health care community, including the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Clinical Laboratory Association, Association of Pathology Chairs, American Society of Clinical Pathology, and Association for Pathology Informatics joining the cause.
How Can We Help?
While this is excellent news that gives pathologists the flexibility they need, we know that making a sudden switch to remote work isn't easy. If you're faced with a new "remote reality" for your team, you'll be seeking a sense of stability for staff. There are a number of ways to help everyone adjust, with the right communication strategy and digital tools. We actually blogged about that topic last week, so check it out if you'd like to see how our mostly-remote team at Voicebrook stays connected and productive.
Like many people, Voicebrook is also looking for ways to help those on the medical front lines. Our company has always employed a remote workforce, but now we are beefing up our remote support and implementation processes to help you fill critical gaps in the diagnostic report creation process. Whether you already use VoiceOver, or need an accelerated remote implementation of our reporting solution, we'll do everything we can to support you during this time.