VA makes mHealth pilots priority

Veterans get options with myriad new programs
By Anthony Brino
10:55 AM
The Department of Veterans Affairs is making strides with testing the viability and potential of mobile health technologies after launching several pilot projects. The agency's newest pilots include one for mobile scheduling and another distributing 1,000 loaner iPads to caregivers of post-9/11 veterans.
The Veteran Appointment Request Web App pilot is offering about 600 veterans the ability to request primary care and mental health care appointments using mobile devices and desktop computers. Currently limited to health services at the Washington-based VA Medical Center and the VA Palo Alto Health Care System, the pilot has the possibility of expanding in the future.
This pilot program first launched at the Washington-based VA Medical Center and recently expanded to the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.
VA officials haven't said if there are plans to eventually expand the online scheduling pilot, but a new, centralized scheduling system may be in the works. Currently, each VA facility manages it’s own scheduling, and since a replacement system project was pulled in 2009 (after $127 million was spent on a contract that failed to produce planned capabilities), the VA issued an RFI last year, seeking industry ideas for a new system.
The Family Caregiver pilot is offering iPads to about 1,000 caregivers of seriously injured veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are enrolled in the VA’s Family Caregiver program. The iPads will come with a suite of apps for both the caregivers and veterans to manage and share their health information and to monitor health conditions, exercise and diet.
Apps coming as part of the suite include Care4Caregiver, Health Advocate, Health Assessment, Journal, Notifications and Reminders, Pain Coach, PTSD Coach, RxRefill and Summary of Care.
The pilot started in April, and this fall the VA is going to start collecting feedback from participants. After adjustments based on user input and additional testing, the VA intends to consider potential deployment of the apps program to all interested eligible vets and caregivers.