Despite Widespread Support, Some Oppose VA Telehealth Rule

Since the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued its proposed rule on telehealth, which would permit all VA physicians to treat patients via telehealth across state lines, regardless of where they’re licensed, the agency has received widespread praise—from provider groups to health IT advocates, among others. But the rule is not without its detractors. As Fierce Healthcare first reported, amid numerous comments from organizations endorsing the rule, the Medical Board of California has submitted written comments expressing their opposition. The rule “would undermine California’s ability to protect health care consumers,” the board stated in their comments.

Why the pushback from the California Board? According to its executive director, Kimberly Kirchmeyer, its members believe that, under the new rule, “enforcement for allegations of wrongdoing would be impossible to investigate” without physicians actually holding a California license. “The board believes that it is very important for physicians treating patients in California to be licensed in California,” Kirchmeyer explained in the board’s written comments. What’s more, under the new rule, “the board will have no ability to discipline VA providers that are licensed in another state and providing telehealth [care] outside of a VA facility in California, as they do not hold a license to practice medicine in California.”

As we’ve previously reported, the proposed rule has largely met with positive responses from advocates for veterans and for telehealth. Last week, for example, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) weighed in with a statement of support. “FTC staff believe that the proposed rule would likely increase access to telehealth services, increase the supply of telehealth providers, increase the range of choices available to patients, improve health care outcomes, and reduce the VA’s health care costs, thereby benefiting veterans, especially those in underserved areas or who are unable to travel,” the agency said in a press release. The VA’s telehealth proposed rule is a cornerstone of its “Anywhere to Anywhere VA Health Care” initiative, which they announced in August. Speaking at a rollout event at the time, VA Secretary David Shulkin told audience members that the initiative would facilitate patients’ access to care regardless of their physical location. “We’re removing geography as a barrier so that we can speed up access to veterans and really honor our commitment to them,” he said. Also included in Anywhere to Anywhere are two apps: VA Video Connect and the Veteran Appointment Request (VAR) app. VA Video Connect, per the VA, would allow patients to securely connect with members of their health care team for mobile video visits.

Click here to read the Fierce Healthcare article on reactions to the VA proposed rule on telehealth.

Click here to read the Medical Board of California’s comments on the VA proposed telehealth rule.

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