EDMONTON -- The province has agreed to pay Alberta doctors more for virtual visits with patients, after some health care providers expressed concern over billing levels.

Physicians were recently granted permission to use virtual methods, such a telephone or video chat, to see their patients. But, the catch was a nearly 50 per cent reduction in what they were paid to see a patient compared to an in-person visit. 

Some doctors expressed fear they would have to close their clinics given the disparity. 

But today, Alberta Health announced new billing codes that will pay doctors the same amount for virtual and in-person visits. 

"Doctors will still meet patients in person where appropriate," said Dr. Christine Molnar, president of the Alberta Medical Association.

Dr. Molnar said the new code is of particular importance given the continued directive for the population to self-isolate to contain the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Virtual care codes will facilitate patient care while making it possible to follow public health guidelines of maintaining social distance and self-isolation,” Health Minister Tyler Shandro wrote in a news release.

“Physicians should choose the best way to provide the care Albertans deserve without having to worry about fair compensation for their services.”