VA Announces New Initiatives

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington D.C on February 5, 2020, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie talked about programs designed to provide better veteran care. For example, the VA hospital in Palo Alto California is now one of the first 5G enabled health facilities in the world.

The hospital’s use of 5G will deliver more detailed three dimensional images of patients’ anatomy with resolution so clear and consistent so the VA will have a reliable means to deliver telesurgery services. This will enable VA’s physicians to consult during surgery no matter where they are located.

The Secretary also mentioned the VA’s work on exoskeletons to help patients move around. The VA currently has a pilot program to develop exoskeletons that stimulate the spinal cord. This will mean that instead of the exoskeleton moving the patient around, the patient can increasingly control the exoskeleton as their own muscles are reactivated. With further research, the VA is hoping to turn the exoskeleton from a mobility device into being able to train injured people to walk again on their own.

Also, the VA in partnership with the University of Southern California, a non-profit called Soldier Strong, and Applied VR, veterans with PTSD can use virtual reality to relive and reimagine traumatic events in a controlled setting under the care of a clinician. This program can give veterans a chance to process their emotions so PTSD can be effectively treated without using drugs to help block pain signals from reaching the brain.

There is new hope for veterans with diabetes who are vulnerable to foot infections, ulcerations, and amputation. The VA’s new, non-evasive medical advancement called Podimetrics Mat can detect diabetic foot ulcers as early as five to six weeks before they would otherwise be present.

The radiation-free mat uses special thermal imaging to measure the temperature of the patient’s feet by having the patient stand on the mat for less than a minute each day so clinicians can see if the diabetic patient standing on the mat has the potential for foot ulcers.

The VA’s Pacemaker Program provides computer facilitated trans-telephonic monitoring to veterans with implanted cardiac devices. Monitoring patients on a regular basis can provide much useful clinical information as the monitoring system can detect battery failures The program has two centers, the Eastern Pacemaker Surveillance Center in Washington D.C and the Western Center in San Francisco.

The VA’s National Precision Oncology Program to help provide targeted cancer care for veterans, is based on their genetic profiles. This can enable veterans to have access to new investigational therapies through clinical trials. The program also includes a research component where patients can agree to have their clinical, genetic, and imaging data, shared with researchers to help advance their cancer care.

The Secretary reports that the President’s “Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide” (PREVENTS) task force will soon release further recommendations. The task force will include a national research and implementation strategy to help veterans with serious mental issues.

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