“The Veterans Administration (VA) www.va.gov has made many important contributions to society and has been using technology to conduct two way group psychiatry therapy as far back as 1959”, according to VA Secretary David Shulkin MD. The Secretary was speaking at the American Telemedicine Association’s Fall Forum “Edge 2017” https://ataedge.org held on October 3-4, 2017 in Washington D.C.
The Secretary emphasized that the VA looks at patients in a holistic way by trying to help veterans with traditional and non-traditional care and is always moving rapidly forward to find new solutions. Two health and medical areas of prime concern to the VA are to find ways to reduce opioid use and further reduce hepatitis C.
The Secretary mentioned that on October 2, 2017, a proposed rule from the VA was published in the Federal Register www.federalregister.gov that would allow veterans to use a mobile app called “VA Video Connect” to conduct a home video conferencing session with a provider at the VA. This technology would be allowed to be used anywhere and the Secretary was happy to announce that the AMA supports the proposed rule.
He pointed out, “Currently, some state laws, certification, or other requirements are restricting or limiting the practice of telehealth. The current situation on the use of telehealth as related to state laws have effectively stopped or inhibited VA’s expansion of telehealth services to certain locations.”
This rule for the use of telehealth as proposed in the Federal Register, would ensure that VA healthcare providers are able to provide the same level of care to all beneficiaries irrespective of the state or location of the VA healthcare provider or the beneficiary.
The proposed rule would enable telehealth to be used to not only provide care from one state to another state, but also provide care whether the veteran is located at a VA medical facility or in their own home.
In FY 2016, VA healthcare providers conducted 2.17 million telehealth visits and served over 702,000 veterans with 45 percent of those veterans living in rural communities. Secretary Shulkin stressed that it is critical to provide care to all veterans in remote, rural, or medically underserved areas to assure that veterans have access to mental healthcare, specialty care, and general clinical care.
The VA seeks comments on the proposed rule appearing in the October 2 Federal Register, but the comments must be received on or before November 1, 2017 and may be submitted through http://www..Regulations.gov. For further information, email Kevin Galpin, MD., Executive Director Telehealth Services for the VHA’s Office of Connected Care at Kevin.Galpin@va.gov