Tech Improving Care for Veterans

“The Rural Connection”, article authored by Kelly Lora Lewis PhD along with co-authors, published by the VA’s Office of Rural Health (ORH), reports that the VA has been working to enhance their telehealth network to improve access to connected health services for rural veterans.

Title IV of the MISSION Act discusses health care in underserved areas and refers to how one initiative “Clinical Resource Hubs” (CRH) now provides improved virtual and in-person care to veterans.

CRHs provides teleprimary care, telemental health, and telespecialty care services to veterans in rural and underserved areas. The CRHs combine teams of primary care, mental health, pharmacy, nursing, and specialty care providers in Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) hub locations with web-based video conferencing services and mobile device applications. The hub sites deliver services to VISN spoke sites and to veterans’ homes or other preferred locations.

ORH is going to commit up to $100 million annually to support the ORH CRH Enterprise-Wide Initiative. The funding is going to help launch new services and sustain current services to increase rural veteran access and services. In FY 2020, ORH is going to provide 10 percent in funding to sustain existing hub costs after providing seed funding in two-year cycles to ensure CRHs’ long term services.

Another advance in technology now underway at the VA is the development of an eye-screening program called “Technology-based Eye Care Services” (TECS) developed in partnership with the Atlanta VA eye clinic and Dr. April Maa and her team.

After a veteran visits their local Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, an eye technician performs tests. The technician then transmits the images through the VA system to a doctor who reads images and prescribes glasses, which are mailed to the veteran’s home by the optical contractor.

Although the program is not meant to replace an in-person eye exam, TECS has also been a help to find possible vision-threatening diseases in nearly one in three patients who were checked. The program is now expanding to other VA hospitals across the country.

Stephanie Deaner PhD, Telehealth Program Manager, at the Great Lakes VISN, authored an article appearing in “Combat & Casualty Care” discussing how “video connect” is available through the VA’s Office of Connected Care. In 2018, more than 28,600 veterans received a video visit into their home or other place of choice. This is a 113 percent increase from the year before.

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