In a recent article published by VAntage Point, the Official Blog of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the agency discusses how telehealth is “revolutionizing” its ability to provide high-quality treatment for the nation’s veterans, empowering VA centers nationwide to better “deliver convenient, accessible health care.”
In the blog post, written by Melanie L. Thomas, MBA, telehealth services are described as “mission critical” to the VA center’s future success, particularly in the utilization of disease management, health informatics, and case management.
“More importantly,” she adds, telehealth helps veterans to “continue to live independently; in their own homes, local communities and stay out of the hospital.”
And telehealth’s ability to achieve these goals seems to be strengthening as time goes by. In creating the report, Thomas draws on information presented in a recent VA telehealth fact sheet, which also points out a few other interesting facts:
- The nation’s VA centers provided care to more than 702,000 veterans via telehealth in fiscal year 2016, amounting to more than 2.17 million episodes of care
- Telehealth is seen as crucial in “increasing access to care” for veterans “in rural and remote locations”
- Of the 702,000 veterans treated via telehealth in 2016, 45% “lived in rural areas, and may otherwise have had limited access to VA healthcare”
Beyond its ability to provide care to more veterans in more locations, telehealth also “changes the relationship between patients and their health care team” for the better, notes Thomas. “Higher levels of patient satisfaction and positive clinical outcomes can attest to this,” she writes.
VA Telehealth Services Continue to Expand
These improvements in outcomes and satisfaction have not gone unnoticed. In recent years, the U.S. government has channeled more funding into telehealth services to increase the reach of healthcare in hard-to-reach rural areas — for veterans, and for others.
In the summer of 2016, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) unveiled a series of grants including more than $6 million for rural telehealth funding and $900,000 for the Flex Rural Veterans Health Access Program, an effort to use “telehealth and health information technology to bring mental health and other health services to rural-dwelling veterans.”
And in the summer of 2017, President Trump’s administration announced an expansion of VA telehealth services that included the introduction of a new mobile app called the Veterans Appointment Request and the expansion of VA Video Connect technology.
Calling the service “especially helpful in reaching veterans who need mental health services” during a ceremony announcing the VA telehealth expansion, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin explained that “VA Video Connect allows VA providers to use mobile devices to connect with veterans on their mobile devices or their home computers.”
He added: “What we’re really doing is … removing geography as a barrier so that we can speed up access to veterans and really honor our commitment to them.”
As funding continues to expand for VA telehealth services, so too does the variety of programs available for veterans. In addition to the Veterans Appointment Request and VA Video Connect services described by Secretary Shulkin, Thomas describes the VA’s Video on Demand as another “important resource for providers and patients.”
“Veterans don’t need to be at a clinic to speak with their provider thanks to VA Video on Demand,” Rod Miles, Virtual Care Program Coordinator for Florida’s Bay Pines VA Healthcare System, told Thomas. “This telehealth tool is a secure, web-enabled video service, connecting Veterans with their providers using their personal mobile phones or computers.”
The veterans themselves tend to agree. According to the VA telehealth fact sheet, veteran satisfaction with telehealth services ranged from 88% to 94% in 2016.
“I’ve had nothing but the best experience,” U.S. Army Vietnam Veteran David Miller told Thomas. “They made dealing with my diabetes much easier. They even gave me a Medtronic device which measures my blood pressure, blood sugar and weight. All I need to do is send my coordinator my results before bed. Telehealth has really helped me to stay on track.”
As a pioneer of VA telehealth services, Care Innovations is proud to offer customized solutions to help VA centers treat more veterans more cost effectively. For more information, we invite you to download our VA telehealth service brochure here, or click here to schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our telehealth experts.