Tuesday, 04 August 2020

VA virtual care, house calls 2.0

SAN FRANCISCO – At the turn of the 20th century the sight of your family doctor, white coat, black bag, making a house call was not uncommon.

One hundred years later, doctors and health care professionals at the San Francisco VA Health Care System, or SFVAHCS, are using the internet to return to this time-honored tradition of house calls through the use of the VA’s suite of mobile apps, its online patient portal and telehealth.

For veterans in the SFVAHCS catchment area, which stretches from San Bruno to the northern border of California, telehealth which uses telecommunications technology to virtually connect veteran patients with health care providers, has become a game-changer.

“Being able to talk with – and see – your provider from the convenience and privacy of your home is what makes this technology so popular,” said Tonya Heredia, SFVAHCS telehealth nurse manager. “Some rural veterans live miles away from the closest VA medical center or clinic. With telehealth technologies, veterans don’t have to travel miles for care. We can bring the care to them.”

In Fiscal Year 2019, more than 900,000 veterans used VA telehealth services to participate in over 2.6 million episodes of care.

SFVAHCS currently provides telehealth care in 40 specialties and subspecialties to veterans living in more than 32 states and in Fiscal Year 2019, use of telehealth services at SFVAHCS, increased by more than 120 percent from the previous fiscal year.

“Telehealth allows us to deliver the right care to our Veterans at the right time,” said Steven Buckingham, lead clinical technician at the Eureka VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic.

In addition to telehealth, veterans are utilizing other internet-based technologies to take an active role in their health care.

Veterans can use the VA’s online patient portal, My HealtheVet, to track a wide range of medical conditions, send secure messages to their health care teams, schedule appointments, and refill prescriptions from their home computers and mobile devices. Since the site’s launch in 2003, My HealtheVet has eclipsed more than five million registered users.

Veterans can also use any of the VA’s nearly two dozen patient-facing web and mobile apps. These online tools assist veterans with issues ranging from weight loss and mental health to refilling prescriptions and scheduling their medical appointments. VA’s mobile apps are accessed by thousands of veterans each year.

For more information about VA’s Connected Care programs, visit http://connectedcare.va.gov.

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