Government is supporting the COVID-19 response by providing more options for virtual patient care.
New temporary physician billing codes are being added to the schedule of medical benefits so that physicians are compensated for providing virtual care.
“We’re helping physicians provide care to Albertans during this critical time while also keeping them as safe as possible. Virtual care codes will facilitate patient care while making it possible to follow public health guidelines of maintaining social distance and self-isolation. Physicians should choose the best way to provide the care Albertans deserve without having to worry about fair compensation for their services.”Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health
“These new virtual care codes will make it possible for physicians to deliver care safely and effectively to patients during the pandemic. These codes apply not only for COVID-19 care, but for all the physical and mental health needs of patients as they present every day. Delivering virtual care will maintain ongoing physician-patient relationships which are essential for quality care. These codes represent an important step towards ensuring the viability of physicians’ practices, and supporting the thousands of Albertans they employ.”Dr. Christine P. Molnar, president, Alberta Medical Association
Through these new health service codes, physicians will be paid the same rate as if the medical services were provided face-to-face. This is similar to billing codes established in other provinces, such as Ontario and British Columbia.
- The changes will add physician billing codes for patient visits, consultations, and mental health services provided over the phone or through secure video conference.
- In-person physician and specialist care will continue. Virtual services will be offered by physicians and specialists where appropriate.
- These new temporary virtual codes will not be subject to the daily patient visit cap.
- Details of all the changes are communicated in Bulletin 222.
- Rates vary depending on physician type and the service provided and are the same as the current in-person rate. For example:
1. Visit services
A limited assessment of a patient provided via telephone or via secure video conference, which includes a history limited to and related to the presenting problem, and an examination, which is limited to relevant body systems, an appropriate record, and advice to the patient. It includes the ordering of appropriate diagnostic tests and procedures, as well as discussion with the patient.
- A family physician provides patient care advice via video conference related to anxiety (total duration 20 minutes) – $38.03
- An internal medicine specialist completes a visit via telephone to discuss medication management (total duration 20 minutes) – $55.64
2. Consultation services
An in-depth evaluation of a patient with a written report to the referring practitioner (physician, nurse practitioner, etc.) provided via telephone or secure video conference.
This service includes the recording of a complete history, an appropriate record and advice to the patient. It may include the ordering of appropriate diagnostic tests and procedures, as well as discussion with the patient and/or the referring practitioner.
- A neurologist completes a comprehensive consultation via video conference for a referred patient – $197.86
- A family physician completes a comprehensive consultation via video conference for a referred patient – $124.25
- A psychiatrist provides a consultation service – $189.58
3. Mental health services
Psychiatric treatment provided via telephone or secure video conference, including medical psychotherapy and medication prescription, psychiatric reassessment, patient education and/or psychiatric counselling.
- A generalist of mental health provides 30 minutes of counselling via telephone to a patient – $88.02
- A family physician provides a scheduled 38 minutes of psychotherapy via video conference to a patient – $95.08