The Veterans Administration (VA) announced last week three telehealth and mobile application initiatives to expand healthcare access for veterans and allow them to get care at home.
The VA will expand its telehealth program, including Anywhere to Anywhere VA Care, VA Video Connect and the Veteran Appointment Request app.
In announcing the initiatives at the White House, President Donald Trump said the programs will help mental health and rural care.
VA Administrator Dr. David Shulkin said the VA already had the largest telehealth program in the U.S. with 700,000 veterans receiving telehealth care through the VA in 2016. VA telehealth has more than 50 clinical specialties.
In the announcement, Shulkin highlighted a new initiative and two expanded programs that will remove “geography as a barrier so that we can speed up access to veterans.”
The first piece is a new regulation that authorizes VA providers to serve veterans anywhere across the country using telehealth technologies. The Anywhere to Anywhere VA Care program will allow providers in metropolitan areas to connect with rural veterans that “lack sufficient medical services,” according to the agency.
Meanwhile, VA Video Connect will allow secure, web-enabled video for veterans to connect with VA providers. The program is being used by more than 300 VA providers at 67 hospitals and clinics. The VA will now roll out VA Video Connect across the country over the next year.
The third piece of the VA telehealth expansion is the Veteran Appointment Request app that lets veterans use a smartphone, tablet or computer to schedule or change appointments at VA facilities. The VA initially made the app available at select locations, but it will now go nationwide.
The announcement is the latest move to improve veterans healthcare. Critics have criticized the VA, especially regarding delays in care, but these telehealth programs seek to remove barriers and make it easier for veterans to get care — especially those who live in rural areas.
In addition to these programs, the VA is switching to a new EHR system. Cerner will provide EHR services and the government will continue to use Epic Systems for online appointment scheduling.