The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs’ “Anywhere-to-Anywhere” telehealth system is off to a strong start. Since early June, healthcare providers have been able to log into the system and make treatment available to the VA’s over 22 million US veterans.
This program, finalized in May 2018, enables Veterans Affairs’ practitioners to use telehealth to connect with veterans in any state as well as enabling patients to share mHealth data with providers. The “Anywhere to Anywhere VA Health Care Initiative” effectively bypasses state rules, licensure, registration and certification laws. VA healthcare providers are able to utilize telehealth as a means of treatment while acting within the scope of their VA employment. The VA has emphasized that the rule allows VA practitioners to treat veterans via telehealth, but does not provide them with any additional liberties.
The national telehealth program’s main goal is to reduce the barriers to care for the veterans experiencing difficulties accessing healthcare at the 900 hospitals and clinics located throughout the United States. Telehealth provides a solution to the provider deficit in rural areas and geographical limitations.
Veterans are now able to connect with 4,500 providers including doctors, mental health specialists, psychotherapists, nurses and more, for follow up care as well as scheduled therapy and care. By mid July 2018 the VA Video Connect app available to veterans on mobile, desktop, and tablet devices, has provided 48,000 ad hoc hours of care to patients, including 22,700 veterans.
A video visit with a patient has evolved into an everyday occurrence for VA clinicians. According to Dr. Neil Evans, from the Office of Connected Care at VA, just as telephones are used to follow up and communicate with patients, telehealth video is the next technology that will keep patients and providers connected.
To address the various infrastructure and connectivity issues throughout the country, such as homes without broadband, tablets with cellular connections can also be distributed to veterans. As the program grows, several partnerships are also in development to extend its reach through telehealth sites to reduce travel for patients. One possible partner being United States Postal Service locations.
In an interview with FCW, Dr. Evans adds that clinical video telehealth has generated a 92 percent satisfaction rate with the veteran patients. As telehealth continues to gain traction, project similar to the VA’s Anywhere-to-Anywhere Initiative show the promise and effectiveness of HIPAA compliant video technology within healthcare, for both patients and providers.