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VA telehealth proposal would expand care access for veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs is proposing a new rule that would standardize telehealth for veterans.

The VA telehealth rule would increase the availability of general clinical care, mental health and specialty services for veterans. The agency is the largest integrated healthcare system in the U.S. and provides care to 9 million veterans across the country.

The proposed VA telehealth rule would amend the current regulations to provide telehealth to veterans no matter where they are located. This means a provider in one state would be able to provide services to a veteran in another. The agency is making the change to combat the lack of expansion for telehealth programs due to state laws; in the proposal, the VA says many of its physicians have refused to practice telehealth because they are afraid to lose their medical license.

The rule would also override existing state laws, rather than the agency asking each state to remove its licensure restrictions to expand telehealth for veterans.

telehealth system

A telehealth system on display at the American Telemedicine Association 2016 conference.

“By providing healthcare services by telehealth from one State to a beneficiary located in another State or within the same State, whether that beneficiary is located at a VA medical facility or in his or her own home, VA can use its limited healthcare resources most efficiently,” the agency said in its proposal.

The proposed VA telehealth regulation would also allow the department to “waive the imposition or collection of copayments for telehealth and telemedicine visits.”

Healthcare providers would still have to maintain the credentials required by their specialty to continue practicing in the VA.

The deadline to comment on the VA telehealth rule is November 1, 2017.

The VA recently announced initiatives that would provide telehealth services in more than 50 specialties, such as intensive care and dermatology. The agency also rolled out an app called VA Video Connect that would provide telehealth for veterans via a mobile phone or PC.