COVID-19 Updates: Taking steps to return to normal.
Adjustments to how physicians can bill the province will encourage more physicians to provide care virtually and to make virtual health care more readily available to Albertans who need or choose to use this option.
“We know that some Albertans have put off visiting a physician during the pandemic to address their health care needs. Improving access to virtual care is increasingly important to people who wish to limit their personal interactions during the pandemic, but need to see a physician. Balancing the payments for virtual and in-person options allow physicians to choose the best mode of care delivery without having to worry about compensation.”
“We have heard from so many community-based physicians who are struggling to maintain the viability of their practices through the pandemic. Recognizing that virtual care should be valued at the same level as in-person care is important. These improvements will support all physicians that provide virtual care – particularly those that practice in the community – to continue delivering quality care for their patients while helping to financially stabilize their clinics.”
When billing for high priority virtual care services, such as visits and consultations, physicians can now include the time spent on indirect care like charting and completing referrals. Previously, physicians were permitted to bill only for the time spent on a phone or video call.
In addition, physicians can now bill for longer visits (e.g. family physician visits lasting longer than 14 minutes), using a complex modifier code. These changes take effect on Jan. 1, and will be evaluated over the next year to inform future adjustments in virtual care services.
- An estimated 4,735 family physicians and 3,988 specialist physicians offered virtual care in the province in the fiscal year 2020/21.
- Since the introduction of virtual care in 2020, approximately 42 per cent of visits, consultations and mental health services have been provided virtually.