VA telehealth rule allows providers to treat patients across state lines

Telemedicine for veterans anywhere in the country regardless of location, including home, is the goal.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has finalized a rule allowing telehealth providers to administer care to veterans across state lines and outside of a federal facility.

Previously, VA physicians could only waive state licensing requirements and provide telehealth treatment across state lines if both the veteran and the doctor were located in a federally owned facility. However, the new rule removes those barriers, effectively enabling virtual care regardless of where in the United States the provider or veteran are located.

“It was unclear whether VA providers could furnish care to veterans in other states through telehealth because of licensing restrictions or state-specific telehealth laws,” states the VA’s announcement. “This new rule exercises federal preemption to override those state restrictions, paving the way for VA to expand care to veterans using telehealth.”

In August 2017, then-VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD, announced at a White House event with President Trump that the agency would be amending regulations to allow the VA’s healthcare providers to practice in any state when they are acting within the scope of their employment.

Also See: VA to expand telehealth services for veterans nationwide

“This new rule is critical to VA’s ‘Anywhere to Anywhere’ initiative,” said VA Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie in a written statement. “Now that the rule has been finalized, VA providers and patients can start enjoying the full benefits of VA’s telehealth services.”

Last year, the agency announced the availability of VA Video Connect, which enables veterans to connect with their providers over live video from a computer, tablet or smartphone. So far, more than 20,000 veterans have used the app to receive care, and more than 4,000 VA providers nationwide are set up to use the system.

“Through this new rule, VA providers will be able to use VA Video Connect and other forms of telehealth to furnish care to veterans anywhere in the country, including in the veteran’s home,” according to the agency.

Recently, VA Video Connect was released in an iOS version and was made available on the Apple App Store, where it has become a top 10 app in the medical product category.

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