Alberta increases doctor’s fees for virtual visits
March 25, 2020
EDMONTON – The Alberta government has approved new, temporary billing codes to compensate doctors for providing virtual care. The new health service codes allow physicians to be paid at the same rate as if the medical services were provided face-to-face.
Previously, Alberta doctors were paid only $20 for a virtual visit, compared with $38 for an in-person visit. The province’s doctors were critical of the government, especially after Alberta allowed Telus to offer virtual visits in the province using doctors who didn’t have office overheads to pay and who didn’t have access to a patient’s historical record.
According to the Alberta government, the $38 now being offered for a video visit is similar to billing codes established in other provinces, such as Ontario and British Columbia.
“Virtual care codes will facilitate patient care while making it possible to follow public health guidelines of maintaining social distance and self-isolation,” said Tyler Shandro (pictured), Minister of Health for Alberta. “Physicians should choose the best way to provide the care Albertans deserve without having to worry about fair compensation for their services.”
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.
The Alberta government gave examples of virtual visits:
- 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
- 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
- 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
“These new virtual care codes will make it possible for physicians to deliver care safely and effectively to patients during the pandemic,” said Dr. Christine P. Molnar, president, Alberta Medical Association. “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,” she said. “These codes represent an important step towards ensuring the viability of physicians’ practices, and supporting the thousands of Albertans they employ.”