VA, Verizon to offer new telehealth access for veterans

The platform connects veterans with their health care team using encryption to ensure a secure and private session, and vets can access Verizon's nationwide 4G LTE network without incurring data charges.
By Nathan Eddy
01:58 PM

The Department of Veterans Affairs and Verizon are teaming up to offer veterans who are customers of the telecommunications giant unlimited access to department's VA Video Connect telehealth app.

WHY IT MATTERS
The platform connects veterans with their health care team using encryption to ensure a secure and private session, and users can then participate in video appointments or engage with health professionals using the built-in chat feature.

The partnership gives vets access across Verizon's nationwide 4G LTE network without incurring data charges. They can visit the VA Video Connect test site on their mobile device to test whether their device is compatible with the platform.

Customers using devices running Apple's iOS software can download the app via Apple's App Store, and for all other users, a telehealth session launches automatically after a user selects an emailed session.

The app is just one of several available from the VA, including an online scheduling application and an "Ask a Pharmacist" app, along with a variety of apps targeting mental health and wellness.

THE LARGER TREND
Telehealth is set for a major expansion in the U.S. This past month the Federal Communications Commission announced the agency would vote to advance a $100 million Connected Care Pilot Program, enabling telehealth expansion for low-income Americans nationwide, including veterans and others in medically underserved areas.

The partnership with Verizon comes as the VA navigates a complex digital transformation, including the $16 billion implementation of the Cerner electronic health records system, which is slated to go live across care sites by 2028.

However, the lack of interoperability between the Department of Defense and VA remains a major stumbling block, which the two entities hope will be smoothed through the creation of a special office, the Federal Electronic Health Record Modernization office, to help centralize decision-making.

Further complicating matters was the first House VA Subcommittee on Technology Modernization hearing, held in September 2018, which revealed that officials and congressional members are not on the same page when it comes to governance and EHR interoperability.

ON THE RECORD

"VA's telehealth app for streaming live video sessions between patients and health care providers is another testament to our shared journey to fully integrated, seamless access to health care for our Veterans, no matter where they live," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement.

"Regardless of whether they live in city centers or rural areas, Veterans should be able to access the VA's telehealth resources," added Mike Maiorana, senior vice president of public sector for Verizon.

Nathan Eddy is a healthcare and technology freelancer based in Berlin.
Email the writer: nathaneddy@gmail.com
Twitter: @dropdeaded209