A sweeping new rule from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) affirms the agency’s belief that telehealth will play an increasingly vital role in providing accessible, quality healthcare to soldiers and other patients receiving its provider benefits.
The VA is amending its medical regulations by standardizing the delivery of care by VA healthcare providers through telehealth. This final rule exercises federal preemption to override state laws, and allows VA healthcare providers to deliver care through telehealth to beneficiaries across state lines and outside VA facilities. “This final rule achieves important Federal interests by increasing the availability of mental health, specialty, and general clinical care for all beneficiaries,” the VA said in its official notice in the Federal Register May 11. It is effective June 11, 2018.
A critical part of the agency’s “Anywhere to Anywhere” initiative, the final rulemaking protects VA healthcare providers who practice telehealth across state lines, against actions by individual states or licensing boards, in case of conflicting laws or regulations. According to the final rule, the VA decided to go this route because waiting for the states to change their laws would “delay the growth of telehealth services in VA,” delaying the delivery of healthcare to beneficiaries.
Kevin Galpin, M.D., executive director of telehealth services, Veterans Health Administration, spoke about the “Anywhere to Anywhere” initiative and the priorities of the VA in his keynote address at the Telemed Leadership 2018 in Washington, DC. Click here to view a video of Dr. Galpin’s presentation.
Last year, VHA Telehealth provided 2.18 million episodes of care, serving 720,000 veterans. While around 12 percent of veterans received an element of their care through telehealth, Galpin said the VA is not really satisfied with that number. The current goal is to get to at least 20 percent, he said.
“What we’re trying to do is enhance healthcare,” said Dr. Galpin in his keynote address. Anticipating the May 11 final rule, he said it’s intent was to “essentially say a VA provider can do telehealth from anywhere in the country to anywhere in the country.”