AcuteCare Telemedicine Blog


Has The VA Been Telehealth’s Most Effective Proving Ground?

Every new product, marketing campaign, movie or television series has something in common. Each go through a period of trial and error to work out the specific details of the product or production where problems, glitches, barriers or creative faux pas are tweaked and corrected before making a debut to the greater community. Each new plane has its test flights; each new television series has its pilot episode; and every new product has its test market before being premiered to the whole of the world.

The Veterans Administration (VA) has long been out in front of the medical industry when it comes to providing remote monitoring and the delivery of virtual healthcare to it patients. Charged with healing a significant patient population afflicted with chronic illness, most living long distances from VA care centers, the VA may be the ideal proving ground for a new and revolutionary healthcare delivery model.

A new study published by Adam Darkins, Chief Consultant for Telehealth Services, and published in EHR Intelligence, highlights some of the results of the virtual healthcare programs first piloted by the VA. The study reveals that 11 percent of veterans received some portion of their care remotely in 2013, a growth rate of some 22% over the previous year. The VA’s telehealth programs include video interactions between caregivers and patients, remote monitoring of chronic disease, and teleradiology. A new program, currently under evaluation, allows veterans to access treatment for mental disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from remote locations through a secure video connection. The challenge of connecting to patients residing away from regional care centers mirrors that of the greater healthcare community, where patients living in rural areas often have limited access to specialized chronic care treatment and facilities.

The confined organizational environment of the VA has allowed it to effectively navigate around several barriers that continue to frustrate the wider expansion of telemedicine in the private sector: Payment for telemedical services, limited or inadequate technology info structure, and the individual state licensing requirements of telehealth practitioners.

It appears that the VA has been a respectable micro test environment to develop, design, engineer and ultimately introduce virtual healthcare services. Dr. Darkins says, “Telehealth in VA is the forerunner of a wider vision, one in which the relationship between patients and the health care system will dramatically change with the full realization of the ‘connected patient.’ The high levels of patient satisfaction with telehealth, and positive clinical outcomes, attest to this direction being the right one.”


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