3 Ways the VA is Using Telehealth to Assist Veterans

By Giovanny Ayala

As of today, the longest standing proponent of telehealth and telemedicine continues to be the United States Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Here’s three ways the VA is assisting veterans through the use of telehealth applications.

1. Real-Time Clinic Based Video Telehealth

Before the VA introduced 700 hundred community-based outpatient telehealth clinics, the average veteran had to travel to distant VA based hospitals and medical centers. In 2003, the VA introduce a policy to expand the telehealth based clinic program. The program allows the VA’s larger medical centers to connect with these smaller clinics remotely via telehealth video to provide the necessary support for intensive care. In result, time-away from work or family and lack of healthcare accessibility was diminished to veterans in rural counties. However, in the rare cases where specialty services such as surgery is required, the veteran would need to be referred to one of larger VA medical centers. Nonetheless, real-time based telehealth clinics can still help our veterans in a number of areas. Some of these areas are:

• Polytrauma
• Telemental Health
• TeleRehabilitation
• TeleSurgery (preliminary condition evaluation)
• TeleCardiology

2. Home Telehealth

Due to the VA’s veteran care stimulus, the department brought in Authentidate to develop a multi-year nationwide Home Coordination Home Telehealth (HCHT) program. This program includes the latest in state-of-the-art technology and is primarily designed to help monitor long-term conditions such as chronic pain, diabetes and/or CODP, post hospital environment and in real-time. The contract’s modern technology is comprised of Authentidate’s Electronic House CallTM (EHC), a stand-alone device that monitors patients in remote areas, and their Interactive Voice Response (IVR) that allows mobile patients enter critical signs and responses from any phone or keyboard. Additionally, any responses or signs entered by the veteran will be routed to Authentidate’s intuitive web application that is designed to automatically integrate such information into the VA’s Computerized Patient Record System (CPRS). Once these telehealth solutions are set in place, veterans can expect to benefit and/or see an improvement in the areas of:

• Long-term chronic illness from using in-home monitoring
• Long-term chronic care costs by using such systems to reduce emergency re-admissions
• Self-management in result of enhanced remote coordinated care plan routines

3. Store-and-forward

The store and forward method was one of the first modes of telehealth technology to be introduced into the healthcare field. It holds the ability to acquire, store and then forward clinical information such as: data, images, sounds, and video to the health coordinator for evaluation and development. Its simple design and advanced security features made telehealth appealing among many healthcare facilities and services. The VA quickly adapted this innovative technology for the use in:

• TeleRadiology – for storing and transferring x-rays among health professionals.
• TeleDermatology – for skin problem diagnosis
• TeleRetinal Imaging – for diabetic risks with blood vessels in the back of the eye

Although these modes of telehealth are beneficial to the veteran their main purpose is to serve as the initial steps towards determining the appropriate level of care one should ultimately receive under such a case. They are a solution medium not a solution giver.