Back to Top Skip to main content

DHA increases access to telehealth during COVID-19 pandemic

Medical personnel sitting at desk talking into laptop monitor U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Brendt Feldt, a surgeon at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center’s Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic, conducts a virtual health appointment via synchronous video. Innovations in virtual health, particularly telehealth, have been essential to continuing quality care for beneficiaries during the COVID-19 pandemic. DHA has made temporary changes to TRICARE regulations to expand telehealth care and prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Photo by Marcy Sanchez)

Recommended Content:

TRICARE Health Program | Coronavirus

Innovations to telehealth are essential to patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Military Health System recognizes the importance of telehealth to prevent in-person spread of the novel coronavirus while still providing quality care to beneficiaries. As a result, the Defense Health Agency is making three temporary revisions to TRICARE regulations regarding telehealth with unprecedented speed.

DHA published an interim final rule in the Federal Register May 12, 2020. The rule invoked temporary changes to how beneficiaries and providers receive and provide telehealth care. These changes to the TRICARE telehealth rules were not Congress-directed. DHA acknowledged the need to make temporary changes to telehealth policy and took action to expand access to care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Changes to regulation that require publication to the Federal Register usually take six months to a year to implement. However, DHA sought to expedite the process due to the urgency to continue providing care during the pandemic. DHA recognizes that both beneficiaries and providers may have technical and capacity limitations to the expansive telehealth demand created by both social distancing recommendations and restrictions to person-to-person interactions.

“The speed in which the DHA was able to respond to an identified need of expanding telehealth opportunities and get a rule change published is credit to the dedication of our great staff working tirelessly for our beneficiaries,” said Christopher Priest, deputy assistant director, Health Care Operations, DHA. “These are challenging times, but every day I see colleagues striving to improve how we deliver the TRICARE benefit under unprecedented conditions.”

The agency hopes to implement changes to beneficiaries worldwide in 30-90 days. Once implemented, changes made through the interim final rule will stand as long as the country remains in a state of national emergency, as declared by the president March 13, 2020.

The first change gives beneficiaries access to audio-only telephone visits with their providers. TRICARE will permit audio-only health care visits to improve access to care for beneficiaries that cannot access audio-visual care. Beneficiaries that cannot access audio-visual care due to lack of in-home technology, such as smartphones or computers, or who live in remote areas without the bandwidth for video conferencing, can take advantage of this service.

DHA is also increasing the provider access to care with the second regulatory change: TRICARE will reimburse providers that practice interstate telehealth where permitted by federal or state law, even if the provider is not licensed in the state where they are remoting in. Usually, providers that offer telehealth must be licensed in both the state where they practice and the state where their beneficiaries reside. This requirement will be temporarily modified to allow providers to expand their telehealth reach and still qualify for reimbursement. The rule also applies to providers overseas as long as a provider holds an equivalent license in another nation, and the host nation permits such practice.

The third change temporarily waives cost-shares and copayments for covered, in-network telehealth services. This change doesn’t cover just services related to COVID-19, but all telehealth services inside of the network. DHA hopes that by removing these costs, beneficiaries take advantage of telehealth and reduce exposure of others to TRICARE beneficiaries who may have the novel coronavirus.

Although the new rules are effective May 12, it will take time for all of the changes to be fully implemented. Beneficiaries may still be assessed a copay for telehealth services over the next few months, but adjudicated claims will either be pended or copays may be reimbursed. Some changes may remain in effect beyond the national emergency for overseas locations. DHA will reevaluate telehealth changes in the long term once the threat of COVID-19 diminishes.

DHA remains dedicated to transparency, while working to swiftly to reduce inconvenience for their beneficiaries and providers. Future updates will be posted to Health.mil and TRICARE.mil as they are finalized.

You also may be interested in...

USU Task Force addresses nutrition and lifestyle’s role in resiliency

Article
9/24/2020
Woman cutting a steak on a plate, with corn

A personal protective lifestyle (PPL) and nutrition (PPN) could be your key to resiliency in the face of COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Nutrition | Coronavirus

PSNS Hospitalman consistently steps up to meet the mission

Article
9/23/2020
Man wearing a mask in an office environment

The ‘Rad Health’ program is cited as the ‘gold standard’ by Naval Sea Systems Command and BUMED audits.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Georgia soldiers donate CCP in the fight against COVID-19

Article
9/22/2020
Man wearing mask, giving blood

[C]onvalescent plasma transferred to a patient still suffering from the disease could help speed the recovery process.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

Air Force master ordering facility streamlines medical supply process

Article
9/21/2020
Military member in warehouse, packing a large box

To date, the Air Force master ordering facility in Port San Antonio has supported 26 Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces embedded in 24 civilian hospitals.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

Trump Administration Releases COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Strategy

Article
9/17/2020
Soldier getting flu shot

Detailed planning is ongoing to ensure rapid distribution as soon as the FDA authorizes or approves a COVID-19 vaccine and CDC makes recommendations for who should receive initial doses.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

MHS immunization experts will answer questions about flu vaccine

Article
9/16/2020
Soldier giving another soldier a flu shot

Real-time Facebook event set for 3-4 p.m. EDT Sept. 17

Recommended Content:

Immunizations | Preventive Health | Public Health | Coronavirus

Former BAMC COVID-19 patient now CCP donor

Article
9/16/2020
Man donating blood

When someone contracts a virus, that person’s immune system creates antibodies to fight the virus.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Convalescent Plasma Collection Program

New communications tool rolled out on MHS GENESIS

Article
9/15/2020
Three men, wearing masks, looking at a computer screen.

Through e-Visits, providers address questions, concerns virtually.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | MHS GENESIS

Suicide impacts us all – but there is help!

Article
9/14/2020
Man at sporting event kissing his wife and baby

September marks Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Recommended Content:

Suicide Prevention | Coronavirus | September Toolkit

Wildfire smoke wreaks havoc on respiratory and immune systems

Article
9/11/2020
Picture of a military tent; an orange, smoky hue surrounds the tent and soldiers

State and country health advisory alerts on diminished air quality have been posted and shared to alert local populations.

Recommended Content:

Public Health | Coronavirus

From Ghana to Washington, Sailor provides leadership during COVID-19

Article
9/10/2020
Female soldier with mask

Acquiring supplies, in general, has been a hurdle worldwide.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Health Readiness

Thirteen years ago Ft. Knox prepared for outbreak scenarios

Article
9/10/2020
Front page of newspaper

Some of the preventive measures that surfaced from the 2007 exercise included the wearing of facial coverings, regular sanitizing of surfaces and social distancing by such means as teleworking.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Public Health

JHIEs give providers better access to patient information

Article
9/8/2020
Man looking at X-Ray

The joint HIE securely connects DoD, VA, U.S. Coast Guard and hundreds of other select federal and private sector partners with patient health and benefit information data.

Recommended Content:

Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization (FEHRM) Program Office | Electronic Health Record Modernization & Interoperability | MHS GENESIS | Joint Health Information Exchange | Coronavirus

USU & JTS lead global COVID-19 Grand Rounds

Article
9/4/2020
Woman in hospital bed surrounded by military health personnel.

A Military Health System-wide virtual clinical case conference led by the Uniformed Services University (USU) and hosted by the Joint Trauma System (JTS) offers physicans best practices and lessons learned during the pandemic.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

DHA Director visits Naval Hospital Pensacola

Article
9/4/2020
Lt. Gen. Ronald Place saluting to soldiers

During his visit, Place showed his appreciation to those that have been committed to excellence.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 33

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.