How the VA is improving patient care through connected tech, teleheath

The agency has revamped its healthcare program through text messaging, the Anywhere to Anywhere telemedicine program and other health programs over the last year.
By Jessica Davis
11:55 AM
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U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, MD. Credit: Twitter

Since his appointment in early 2017, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, MD, has made modernizing the agency a top priority. Shulkin has taken a number of steps to accomplish this, including the launch of the Anywhere to Anywhere initiative with President Trump in August 2017.

The VA aims to use the program to allow agency medical providers to practice telehealth across state lines, regardless of their location. The goal is to expand care access for veterans and reduce wait times -- an issue that has plagued VA in recent years.

The VA’s overall strategy is to leverage technology in a way that makes sense for veterans and VA staff, according to VA Chief Officer of VA’s Office of Connected Care Neil Evans. The agency is using tech in a way that improves care access, but also helps veterans in their home and fits into the provider’s workflow.

[Also: Senate passes VETS Act, would enable VA providers to offer telehealth across state lines]

VA is making a push for care that makes a difference for veterans, explained Evans. “It’s how we, as a health system, can better provide care. And when it makes sense, a provider can fill in gaps. It’s what we’ve been doing, and we’re committed to expanding care.”

To accomplish this, the VA leverages several technologies like a personal health program. Evans said the agency is processing hundreds of thousands through its secure messaging platform daily. Mobile apps let veterans share personal data they’re collecting at home.

[Also: VA awards $260 million home telehealth contract to 1Vision]

The agency has been pilot testing its text messaging program, which is currently at several sites. Evans explained the two-way messaging protocols let providers text message with patients.

For example, Evans explained that a provider can enroll a patient with blood pressure to monitor the status at home through text messaging a few times a week. The provider could ask about specific blood pressure measurements and remind the veteran about their treatment.

“We’d get tailored results for the patient form the system, plus be available for regular care,” said Evans.

The home telehealth program services about 147,000 veterans, using interactive voice response, a web app, virtual care, or through a physical hub connected to the network, Evans explained.

“The important part of the program is that it’s a formalized way to collect data,” said Evans. “And with case management for our highest risk patients, we’re not only monitoring them but providing them closer care.”

“There are certainly compelling use cases for connected technologies to allow us to better take care of patients in rural part of America where distance is a barrier to receiving healthcare,” he continued. “The goal is to have increasingly convenient, care but also fully established with the veteran’s care team.”

Neil Evans will be speaking in the session, “Connected Care: VA, Virtual Health and the Patient Experience,” at 1 p.m. March 7 in the Venetian, Delfino 4002.

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Twitter: @JessieFDavis
Email the writer: jessica.davis@himssmedia.com