Soon veterans will have access to VA Healthcare wherever they’re located in the US. The VETS Act of 2017 passed the Senate this week, allowing VA doctors to use telemedicine in any location and in any state, regardless of where the doctor or the patient is located.
The House passed a slightly different version of the bill in November. One version bars states from denying or revoking a physician’s licenses for using telemedicine across state lines. Critics say this part of the bill gives VA doctors unique ability to practice across state lines and will deprive the states of the ability to regulate practitioners.
“VA already has the largest telehealth program in the country,” said VA Secretary Dr. David J. Shulkin at a demonstration at the White House last year. “Last year, we had 700,000 veterans who got telehealth services through the VA. There are more than 50 clinical specialties available through VA’s telehealth program, including cardiology, genomics, rehabilitation and mental health.
Once the telehealth program kicks in, the Secretary has a year to report back to Congress on the progress of the program. This report must include information about satisfaction levels of both veterans and health care providers who are participating in the program. Also included in the report will be data about the veteran’s ability to access the program, how often it’s being used and the productivity of the healthcare providers.
The next bill to look for is the Veterans Community Care and Access Act of 2017. If passed, this bill will establish a community care program that coordinates healthcare both in and out of the VA health system. Quality standards, safe prescribing standards and walk-in protocols are also included in this bill.