Encouraged by the progress made in 2014 concerning its teleheath program, the Department of Veterans Affairs intends to continue improving on this program by reaching even more clients and significantly enhancing its relationship with health care providers.
In October, 2014, the VA reported that its national telehealth programs had succeeded in helping nearly 700,000 veterans during the fiscal year. According to Veteran’s Administration Secretary Robert McDonald: “We consistently explore how we can more effectively and efficiently deliver health care services to our veterans and improve their lives. Telehealth is one of those areas for which we have identified promising, long-term growth.”
Telehealth programs now serve 12 percent of all veterans enrolled in the Veteran’s Administration’s health care program. Of that 12 percent, veterans made over two million teleheath visits, with almost 60 percent of teleheath veterans residing in rural areas where they had limited access to veteran health care services.
As more veterans age, develop conditions related to aging and actively seek health care, teleheath is quickly becoming the most attractive and practical option available, especially to veterans who experience difficulty getting to a VA medical center. In 2015, VA plans to expand its telehealth offerings by utilizing a $16 billion reform bill established in August, 2014. By authorizing the VA department to begin accelerating deployment of mobile health care clinics via telemedicine, this bill means that many veterans will no longer need to travel long distances to receive necessary medical care. In addition, telemedicine reduces wait times so that veterans can receive medical attention expeditiously when it is needed.
On its website, the VA has published an outline of its forthcoming efforts to increase the scope of its telemedicine programs. Specialized services that will be offered include telecardiology, telementalhealth, telesurgery and telerehabilitation. In an interview with iHealthBeat, VA Deputy Chief Telehealth Consultant Ellen Edmonson stated that ” the VA is diligently striving to improve its commitment to veterans who need better access to telehealth”.
VA telehealth programs have led to a 34 percent drop in readmissions and a 42 percent reduciton in bed days in 2014 (fiscal year). The VA further reports that a recent survey of 10,000 veterans found that 94 percent were completely satisfied with clinical video telehealth. Store-and-forward teledermatology garnered a 92 percent satisfaction rating from veterans and teleretinology received a 94 percent rating.
For more information about the VA’s teleheath program, visit their webpage.