Still, the VA’s anywhere-to-anywhere telehealth initiative, which includes the nearly 2-year-old VA Video Connect application (a VA customization of the Pexip Infinity platform), is taking video-based care to a new level, says Dr. Leonie Heyworth, the VA’s director of synchronous telemedicine.
VA Video Connect lets the VA care for more patients while it tries to fill 24,000 open healthcare positions, including 2,600 physician spots.
The service is popular for mental health care, dermatology issues and post-surgical or post-hospitalization follow-up. The agency provides 700 home-based video visits a day; that number is growing.
“We are reaching patients and serving them in ways we really couldn’t before,” Heyworth says.
Video connects far-flung family members with the veteran’s medical team to discuss and agree on a care plan.
It also works well for vets with post-traumatic stress or other mental health issues who would prefer a virtual visit in a place where they feel comfortable over one that involves any travel.
“It’s more personal,” says Evans. “I recently had a great visit with a patient in which I had the most open conversation I’ve ever had with him — and it was punctuated by the fact that for the second half of the appointment his dog was hanging out with him.”
Army Uses Tech to Deliver Care from Afar
In January 2018, the Army launched the Virtual Medical Center at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas to better enable and synchronize video-based care at the point of need and to aid operational readiness. It’s already supported the Texas-based 232nd Medical Battalion, the Army’s largest training battalion, as well as medical efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
“What’s been challenging is that the video infrastructure in the Department of Defense was not created for telehealth, but for teleconferencing and meetings,” says Lt. Col. Sean Hipp, V-MEDCEN director. “What we’re doing is taking the technology and making it work for what we need.”
For example, the V-MEDCEN has equipped medics in combat zones with telehealth kits featuring high-definition cameras designed for medical care, a digital stethoscope and other remote monitoring equipment so that an aid station provider or a specialist located at a larger Army medical center can evaluate the wounded soldier's condition.