07 August 2013

VA, HHS Team Up On Telehealth

This is a very informative article and I am disappointed that I was so late in finding it. In talking to my VA Clinic, they are aware of the program, but not yet involved in anything like it. They are noticing that veterans are being forced back to the VA by local hospitals (I am one of them) and hospital doctors when they don't wish to deal with them.

The Health and Human Services Department and the Veteran Affairs Department announced in early September 2012 a joint effort to expand the care delivery to veterans living in rural areas. Three states with the highest density of veteran residents, Virginia, Montana, and Alaska, will each receive approximately $300,000 to implement or upgrade telehealth capabilities for veterans who must otherwise travel long distances to access medical, mental, and behavioral health care. The grants will be used for telehealth equipment and to develop electronic health records that are compatible with the VA’s VistA EHR.

With this new initiative, the two agencies will promote collaboration between VA facilities, and private hospitals and clinics. This will seek to improve access and coordination of care through telehealth and health information exchanges in rural areas thereby preventing many veterans from having to travel 75 or more miles one way to receive medical health care.

The Department of Veterans Affairs Telehealth Expansion Initiative, launched in May 2011, is growing VA’s telehealth workforce across the country. When fully implemented, it will provide a potential capacity of 1.2 million telehealth consultations annually. Working with partners like HHS, VA will continue to increase the reach of our services beyond our 152 major medical centers to ensure veterans receive the care they have earned and deserve.

Administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration, the grants are part of a pilot program to spur collaborative telehealth networks and virtual linkages among rural health providers and the VA to help meet the needs of rural veterans. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is working to implement health information exchange among VA hospitals and rural hospitals to make high quality, safe and affordable health care more available to returning veterans living in rural areas.

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