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Veterans Exempt from Copayments When Using In-Home Telehealth

Method is expected to “remove a barrier that may have previously discouraged veterans from choosing to use in-home video telehealth as a viable medical care option.”

Nate Banks, standing on the left, the domiciliary chief at the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Washington (D.C.) Medical Center, demonstrates that hospital’s telehealth system. Starting May 7, 2012 the VA will no longer require copayments from veterans who use in-home video telehealth systems.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) will no longer require a copayment from veterans receiving outpatient medical care when they use in-home video telehealth systems in the hopes that veterans will prefer to receive care at home.

On March 6, 2012, the VA posted a notice on the Federal Register—Exempting In-Home Video Telehealth From Copayments—that eliminates “any required copayment” from veterans for in-home video telehealth care.

The copayment exemption becomes effective May 7, 2012, and it is expected to “remove a barrier that may have previously discouraged veterans from choosing to use in-home video telehealth as a viable medical care option,” the notice says.

The VA is eliminating the copayment for in-home video telehealth care in an effort “to make the home a preferred place of care, whenever medically appropriate and possible,” the notice says.

Because many of the nation’s veterans must travel great distances in order to obtain health care at a VA hospital or medical center, the VA established local, community-based outpatient clinics (CBOC), the notice says. In addition to the CBOCs, the VA has established “telehealth” services that enable the VA to provide certain medical care without requiring the veteran to be physically present with the examining or treating medical professional, the notice says.

Telehealth helps ensure that veterans are able to get care in a timely and convenient manner by reducing burdens on both the patient and on VA resources, but without sacrificing the quality of care provided, the notice says. The benefits of using this technology include increased access to specialist consultations, improved access to primary and ambulatory care, reduced waiting times and decreased veteran travel.

Like clinical video telehealth care, in-home video telehealth connect veterans to VA health-care professionals using real-time videoconferencing as a means to replicate aspects of face-to-face assessment and care delivery that do not require the health care professional to make an examination requiring physical contact, the notice says. However, in-home video telehealth care is provided in a veteran’s home, eliminating the need for the veteran to travel to a clinical setting. Using telehealth capabilities, a VA clinician can assess elements of a patient’s care, such as wound management, psychiatric or psychotherapeutic care, exercise plans, and medication management. The clinician may also monitor patient self-care by reviewing vital signs and evaluating the patient’s appearance on video, the notice says.