On May 11, 2018, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released its final rule on the "Authority of VA Health Care Providers to Practice Telehealth." Effective June 11, 2018, VA providers will be able to provide telehealth services across state lines. This move will make it easier for veterans to obtain services, particularly if they are in remote, rural or underserved areas. It is anticipated that this ruling will shorten wait times for patients seeking care.
While this may not sound significant, the big news is that these healthcare providers do NOT need to be located, licensed, registered, or certified in the state of the patient. Even if state law prohibits this practice, since the VA is a federal program it over-rides any conflicting state laws or regulations on this matter.
This ruling is a result of the push by the Trump administration with their Anywhere-to-Anywhere initiative. In support of this initiative, Congress has passed several bills (e.g., Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support (VETS) Act of 2017) in support of a nationwide telehealth program. This final rule is evidence that the initiative is working.
There are a few things to note:
- The services rendered must be within the provider's scope of practice
- Only certain services may be provided via telehealth
- This does not apply to community health care providers (e.g., Choice program)