The Veterans Administration (VA) https://www.va.gov is using the latest in telehealth technology to reach rural veterans facing challenges when they seek evaluations, and a range of appropriate interventions to help them with hearing loss. “Expanded use of innovative technology is increasing access points to hearing care in remote areas” reports, Chad Gladden, Audiology Telehealth Coordinator for the Audiology and Speech Pathology National Program Office.
Audiology Store and Forward Telehealth (SFT) modality now being implemented through a pilot program in targeted areas includes automated audiometric test results and captured images that are compiled by trained personnel at remote sites and then sent to audiologists at VA Medical Centers for analysis. An estimated 400 veterans have been tested through this pilot program.
During the patient’s visit, technicians using the proper equipment can provide important patient information to an audiologist from a remote site. The technology can capture images of the ear drum, ear canal, and external ear which is required in an audiogram. At this point, the information and images are then stored in a pdf file which is then uploaded into the EHR and sent to the audiologist for analysis at a designated clinic.
The success of the program is motivating other staff in new locations to consider SFT services. Eleven new facilities have requested similar hardware setups in order to expand their programs. Continued expansion is planned in FY 2020 with additional telehealth services to include hearing evaluations, hearing aid fittings and follow-up, auditory rehabilitation, and tinnitus management classes.