AMIA Supports VA Telehealth Expansion Proposal

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Nation’s health and biomedical informatics professionals urge the Department of Veterans Affairs to define telehealth broadly, and partner with sister agencies

In comments submitted yesterday, the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) offered strong support for a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) proposed rule that would expand its telehealth program. The national organization of health informatics professionals also urged the VA to lead through example, but relying on nationally-recognized standards and investing in telehealth-related research.

In a proposed rule published in October, the VA proposed a new regulation that would authorize VA health care providers to treat veterans through telehealth services irrespective of where the VA provider or veteran was located. The proposed rule would also preempt any state-level restriction that would prevent the provider from delivering care via telehealth.

AMIA said it supports these proposals because it would enable the VA to extend its robust telehealth services to even more beneficiaries, especially to those veterans who may currently lack adequate access to local VA facilities. “This is an important step towards improving both care and access for our nation’s veterans,” comments said.

AMIA also encouraged the VA to ensure its telehealth applications use nationally recognized health IT standards and enable use of clinical decision support. “Special attention to standards-based functionality and application usability will be critical as the VA begins its transition to a new telehealth-enabled EHR system. We could also gain valuable insights into the economic benefits of telehealth, if specific research with that focus is tied to this expanded policy effort. This could, in turn, inform national policy at CMS and the private sector.”

“The VA is to be commended for continuing its leadership role in telehealth,” said Thomas Payne, MD, FACP, FACMI, AMIA Board Chair and Medical Director of IT Services at the University of Washington’s UW Medicine. “This policy, once implemented, will benefit our nation’s veterans, and it can have tremendous positive impact on telehealth services outside the VA.”

AMIA also referenced a memorandum of understanding between the VA and the Indian Health Services (IHS), which is meant to promote cross-agency support and collaboration around health information technology, including telehealth services. AMIA recommended the VA consider ways that IHS providers who treat VA beneficiaries might also be included as part of this proposal. “Including partner agencies, such as IHS, as part of this effort would be of great benefit to the federal government and to the beneficiaries it serves,” AMIA comments.

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AMIA, the leading professional association for informatics professionals, is the center of action for 5,400 informatics professionals from more than 65 countries. As the voice of the nation’s top biomedical and health informatics professionals, AMIA and its members play a leading role in assessing the effect of health innovations on health policy, and advancing the field of informatics. AMIA actively supports five domains in informatics: translational bioinformatics, clinical research informatics, clinical informatics, consumer health informatics, and public health informatics.