AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog

The VA Deploys Telemedicine and Telehealth Programs

The Department of Veterans Affairs  (VA) has released a comprehensive 400-page report that outlines its successes last year in the effort to improve veterans’ access to quality healthcare, including the implementation of an extensive telemedicine program. The report concludes that the use of telemedicine and telehealth has significantly improved veterans’ access to quality healthcare, and quality of life, by reducing the amount of time and travel needed to receive care.

The news is particularly encouraging given the performance level of the federal agency that is charged with providing ongoing medical care for millions of our nation’s military veterans.  Veteran Hospitals (VA Hospitals) have historically been located near large metropolitan areas, requiring patients to travel long distances for even the most basic of medical services.  The agency is making significant changes to its system, consolidating specific treatment into regional locations, causing some patients to be concerned about traveling even longer distances to receive their VA Medical Benefits.

Most recently the Agency has come under attack for its inability to process a long backlog of claims resulting in some veterans who have been waiting for treatment to coin the phrase, “Delay, Deny, and Wait Till I Die”.  Embracing the new telemedicine and telehealth technology programs may be the most promising decision the agency has made in the recent past to help turn the long history of inefficiency and questioned quality of care around.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) 2012 Performance and Accountability Report, submitted by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki in November, discusses the Department’s achievements in improving healthcare and benefits service delivery to veterans.  The report states that in 2012, the VA maintained the largest integrated healthcare system in America and implemented “new innovative practices to improve Veterans’ access to health care, such as telemedicine and mobile clinics, to provide care to more than 6 million unique patients.” Throughout 2012, nearly 500,000 veteran patients received 1.4 million telehealth-based consultations, which were delivered from 150 VA Medical Centers and 750 Outpatient Clinics.

Supporters of the VA’s utilization of the latest technologies to expand access to quality, primary and specialty care believe that it will transform healthcare delivery at VA Medical Centers while providing veterans solutions that enable greater access to their benefits, at a lower cost, all while improving the quality and outcomes of the medical care.

Telemedicine and telehealth technology is demonstrating its benefits of improved care, increased access and lower costs in the private sector.  Let’s hope that its application and practice at the VA demonstrates an equal measure of success.  Our military members risked their lives and suffered countless injuries in service to our country.  They deserve efficient, accessible, quality medical care for their commitment and sacrifice for protecting our freedoms and our country’s security.

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