Virtual care codes now available

March 23, 2020

I write today with good news.

Following discussions between the Alberta Medical Association and government, I’m very happy to let you know that three new categories of virtual care codes have been established so that family physicians and specialists can provide more telemedicine, such as teleconferencing and video, for an expanded scope of patient needs during the pandemic, including visit services, consultation services and mental health services. These new codes are being introduced today and will be applied retroactively to March 17th, compensating doctors using a rate that is closer to a face-to-face interaction with the patient. I want to thank the Minister and his team for their efforts to bring this to pass.

The changes will add physician billing codes for patient assessments, consultations and tele-psychiatry provided over the phone or through secure videoconference. Telemedicine services will not be subject to the daily patient visit cap. Additionally, Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services have collaborated on a Clinical Alternative Relationship Plan to compensate physicians working in COVID-19 AHS assessment centres.

For your information today, the codes involved are:

  • Visit services— HSCs: 03.03CV and 03.03FV
  • Consultation services — HSCs: 03.08CV and 08.19CX
  • Mental health services — HSCs: 08.19CV and 08.19CW

Please see the AH Bulletin for further information.

The AMA and AH will now be meeting regularly around these codes to monitor implementation issues, identify any supports that may be necessary, and to make necessary adjustments. A briefing note on the AMA’s activity for that support is here. There will be more information coming within days around all things mentioned in the briefing note. Virtual Care material is being developed and we plan on using this to inform physicians through various means. In the meantime, members are encouraged to visit the AMA’s COVID-19 Resource Center.

We recognize that virtual care cannot and will not replace in-person care delivery for many circumstances, however where appropriate, the new virtual care codes will make it possible to deliver virtual care — COVID-related or otherwise — within the ongoing physician-patient relationships, that are essential for patient care. They represent a critical step toward ensuring the viability of physician practices and supporting the thousands of Albertans that we employ.

Please watch for the details coming very soon.

In your service,
Christine P. Molnar, MD, FRCPC
President, Alberta Medical Association

P.S. As of Monday, March 23, all AMA staff are working from home and AMA physical locations are closed. This transition to work from home is consistent with our business continuity plan and the general recommendations made by the provincial Medical Officer of Health to facilitate social distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19. The AMA has implemented tools to ensure we operate at full capacity while doing our part to keep staff and our community safe and healthy.

All the normal telephone and email channels for communicating with AMA staff remain active.

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