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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Comments (4)

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  1. Susan Warner says:

    We would like to set up telehealth in our Region, and need some connection with other centers where this is set up so we can learn and develop our program more efficiently.

  2. scott mcnairy MD says:

    Here in Mpls, MN as an addiction psychiatrist/UMN fellowship training director, I have provided telemed consultation and coverage to CBOC in-state and western WI to specifically address the opioid epidemic with MATx. We have also provided consultation to waivered providers at other VA sites out of state in VISN 23 (and Mayo Clinic) to establish/improve their MATx programs.

    What I have learned is that via telemed we are only as good as the allied professionals at the POC clinics. MATx trained Nursing is essential and makes service delivery possible with follow-up care at least monthly.

    I would like to see more delivery of Alcohol based MATx provided directly by the PCP on-site but based upon a QUERI project in the PACTs here in Mpls. it is still a hard sell (even though far easier for PCP to administer and monitor than Opioid MATx once they gain CONFIDENCE). Telehealth can upgrade PCP skills and practice in addition to our direct services to vets by telemed.

  3. Pam Detrick says:

    I believe we are getting closer to changes that actually will benefit the veteran. I am all in. Where do I sign up.

    Pam Detrick, PhD, ARNP, FNP, PMHNP, CAP
    Board Certified Addictions Professional, Family Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner, Pain Management

    Now work on firing incompetent supervisors and employees!!

  4. Olive A Phillips says:

    I am a primary care provider, APRN in the North Little Rock VA at Fort Roots since 2004 and I frequently use tele-monitoring for patients with diabetes and hypertension and have seen a tremendous improvement in the level of patient engagement and outcome measures. We are seeing a remarkable decrease in our blood pressure and blood glucose readings. Our patients are also very satisfied with the ongoing communication and timely feedback from their PACT team. The nurses how monitor these daily data trends are dedicated to upholding the I CARE values of the VA under the engaged leadership of Ms. Joanne Hyett. I see the tremendous potential to decrease costs while improving the patient experiences and outcomes. I am also please to see that there is an increasing body of evidence supporting the effectiveness of tele-monitoring.
    Olive A Phillips APRN PACT 18

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