Telemedicine services expanded to military patients

Department of Defense measure increases access to behavioral health services.

On Feb. 3, the assistant secretary of defense released a memo expanding coverage of telemedicine services to patients in the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Military Health System. Previously, telemedicine visits could only occur between providers and patients who were located at eligible originating sites, which were typically separate military treatment facilities. This memo now authorizes the patient’s home or other approved patient location to be treated as an originating site to receive services via telemedicine.

Additional conditions still apply to the provision of telemedicine services, including assessing whether an individual patient is appropriate for receiving telemedicine services in a nonclinical setting and documenting those considerations, using a secure DoD-approved health information technology platform that is HIPAA-compliant and having a backup communications plan in place. 

The APA Practice Organization applauds the efforts of Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who have been instrumental in encouraging the DoD to take this action. This policy change helps to better serve military personnel and their dependents. Psychologists can show their appreciation via social media with tweets to @SenToomey and @CongressmanGT. 

“This measure will increase patient access by allowing patients to receive much needed services, including behavioral health services in their homes,” says APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD. “Easing restrictions on eligible originating sites allows patients who may be homebound for various reasons to communicate with their psychologists and other providers while recognizing the need to use HIPAA-compliant technologies to ensure patient health information is secured.”