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The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) has just announced the launch of its Virtual Care Accreditation Pilot program, a key step in NCQA’s development of a quality improvement framework for organizations that provide care via telehealth or other digital platforms.

NCQA selected as pilot organizations a diverse set of 18 organized and engaged entities from the more than 100 that applied. Based in 12 states and Puerto Rico, pilot organizations include health plans, health systems, Federally Qualified Health Centers, patient-centered medical homes and virtual first/virtual only organizations.

The pilot organizations will provide valuable input to the development of NCQA’s Virtual Care Accreditation, a first-of-its-kind program highlighting the quality of care patients receive through virtual or hybrid modalities from many kinds of health care organizations.

Virtual Care Accreditation will highlight and distinguish organizations using virtual modalities to identify gaps in care, provide high-quality care and report and track outcomes.

Early versions of the program will focus on primary care and urgent care. Later versions will provide opportunities for organizations to distinguish themselves for other kinds of care they deliver virtually. Likely options include behavioral healthcare and acute, post-acute or specialty care.

“Care delivery has evolved, and virtual care is a new normal in desperate need of standardization and reliable quality assessment,” said NCQA President Margaret E. O’Kane. “Virtual Care Accreditation will be a roadmap and the foundation of the safe, effective and equitable virtual care people need.”

Four phases compose the roughly 10-month pilot program: learning, testing, preparation and evaluation. An early adopter program and launch of Virtual Care Accreditation will follow the pilot program in mid- to late-2024.

The Joint Commission also just announced it is launching a new Telehealth Accreditation Program for eligible hospitals, ambulatory and behavioral healthcare organizations, effective July 1, 2024. This accreditation program provides updated, streamlined standards to provide organizations offering telehealth services with the structures and processes necessary to help deliver safe, high-quality care using a telehealth platform.

The Telehealth Accreditation Program was developed for healthcare organizations that exclusively provide care, treatment and services via telehealth. Hospitals and other healthcare organizations that have written agreements in place to provide care, treatment and services via telehealth to another organization’s patients have the option to apply for the new accreditation.

The Telehealth Accreditation Program’s requirements contain many of the standards similar to other Joint Commission accreditation programs, such as requirements for information management, leadership, medication management, patient identification, documentation, and credentialing and privileging. Requirements specific to the new accreditation program include:

– – Streamlined emergency management requirements to address providing care and clinical support remotely rather than in a physical building.
– – New standards for telehealth provider education and patient education about the use of telehealth platforms and devices.
– – New standards chapter focused on telehealth equipment, devices and connectivity.