ACR concerned new rule would set the stage for ‘highly controversial new national practice standards’

The American College of Radiology is voicing concerns over a new federal regulation it believes is setting the stage for “highly controversial new national practice standards.”

ACR’s anxieties stem from an interim rule issued back in November, outlining Veterans Affairs providers’ scope of practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes allowing VA clinicians to operate across state lines, regardless of local requirements, and asserting the massive health system’s ability to establish national practice standards across its 1,200-plus facilities.

In comments submitted Friday, ACR acknowledged this rule was merely meant to “confirm already-existing VA authorities.” However, the college is troubled by a potential slippery slope that could eventually lead the health system away from care teams guided by medical doctors.

“Undoubtedly the national practice standards envisioned by this rulemaking would undermine the integrity of physician-lead healthcare teams, resulting in a two-tiered system whereby veterans are denied the same level of high quality, physician-led healthcare that they could otherwise receive in the public sector,” Howard Fleishon, MD, chair of the college’s board of chancellors, wrote Jan. 8, ahead of the Monday deadline to submit comments. “ACR is concerned that allowing nonphysician providers to practice independently of a physician’s clinical oversight could seriously jeopardize the quality of care our veterans receive.”

Fleishon is additionally worried these standards could undermine states’ authority to oversee and regulate local care, and he and ACR are asking Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie to rescind the interim final rule.

“Veterans deserve high quality, physician-led, patient-centered care, and their access to such care should not be abrogated via this IFR and subregulatory guidance,” he concluded.