Barriers Fall for VA’s Ability to Provide Telehealth Across State Lines

By Sandra Basu

WASHINGTON—A new regulation allows VA providers to treat patients via healthcare, regardless of location, leading to plans by the agency to expand its program to provide medical care remotely.

The plans were announced last month by President Donald Trump and VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, speaking from the White House.

VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, center, joined President Donald Trump at the White House to make a major announcement on telehealth last month. Official White House. Photo by Shealah Craighead

“This will significantly expand access to care for our veterans, especially for those who need help in the area of mental health, which is a bigger and bigger request—and also in suicide prevention,” Trump said. “It will make a tremendous difference for the veterans in rural locations in particular.”

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Shulkin added that VA will work with the Office of American Innovation and the Justice Department to issue a regulation that “allows our VA providers to provide telehealth services from anywhere in the country to veterans anywhere in the country, whether it’s in their homes or any location.”

“What we’re really doing is, we’re removing regulations that have prevented us from doing this,” he said. “We’re removing geography as a barrier so that we can speed up access to veterans and really honor our commitment to them.”

Until the change in law, rules barred VA providers from providing telehealth services across state lines, unless both the veteran and the doctor are located in federal facilities.

Shulkin said that the change in regulations will mean that the agency will “be able to use VA providers in cities where there are a lot of doctors, and be able to use those doctors to help our veterans in rural areas where there aren’t many healthcare professionals.”

The “VA Video Connect” program will be rolled out to provide those services, he explained, and allows telehealth services to be provided to veterans on their mobile devices or home computers.

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