VA asks Senate to ease telemedicine licensing restrictions: 5 things to know

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday told the Senate Appropriations Committee it has long-term goals for telemedicine that need congressional approval, according to Federal News Radio.

Here are five things to know.

1. Last year, the VA spent $1.2 billion on telemedicine. Roughly 12 percent of the Veterans Health Administration's patients received telehealth treatment last year, representing about 2 million clinical encounters.

2. The majority of these services connect a patient at a VA facility with a physician at another facility. As long as a physician has "an unrestricted license in at least one state," this telehealth usage doesn't conflict with state licensing requirements, according to Federal News Radio.

3. The VA wants to expand telemedicine service to allow patients at other remote locations — such as their homes — to connect with VA physicians. In this encounter, a VA physician would currently need dual licensing in both their state and the state where the patient is located.

4. During the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, VA officials asked Congress to consider allowing VA physicians to conduct remote consultations regardless of state licensing, thereby overriding existing state legislation.

"Legislation is really critical to realize our vision," said Kevin Galpin, MD, executive director of telehealth services in the Veterans Health Administration, according to Federal News Radio. "We really need to be authorized to deliver care to a veteran in any location: libraries, post offices or academic sites or any private site where a veteran can come for care."

5. The VA said expanding telemedicine services would help offset issues like specialist shortages in remote areas. It would also enable patients who don't live in the same state year-round to maintain a relationship with the same physician for all of their care.

More articles on telehealth:
Bipartisan bill seeks to expand telehealth access to Medicare patients
6 insights on state telehealth legislation, reimbursement
45% of providers 'just beginning' virtual care pilot projects

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