VA to Expand Telehealth Services to Reach 825,000 Veterans; Adam Darkins Comments

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has confirmed expansion plans for veteran telehealth services, reports Eric Wicklund for govhealthit.

Over 460,000 veterans used telehealth last year and the VA wants to double that number through awareness campaigns and expanded services.

Adam Darkins, MD, the VA’s chief consultant for telehealth services, spoke about the developments during the Center for Connected Health’s Connected Health Symposium last week in Boston, Ma.

Telehealth services include: video consults, store and forwards telehealth, and home monitoring for veterans with chronic conditions, said Darkins.

VA intends to increase video consults, mHealth programs, e-consults, and teleradiology programs in order to reach 825,000 veterans before 2013 ends.

We would also like to concentrate in developing our chronic disease management program through transferring 13,000 veterans which are monitored via interactive voice response into a video conferencing platform, Darkins explained.

The VA announced last September they will collaborate with the Department of Health and Human Services to improve the telehealth program to serve more veterans in rural areas.

The partnership received around $983,000 in federal grants. The initiative is intended to stimulate cooperation between VA operated clinics and hospitals as well as other health providers for veterans.

The program will be concentrated in Virginia, Montana, and Alaska due to the high veteran population of these states. Each state will receive $300,000 for telehealth network upgrades and creation of VistA HER compatible electronic health records.

Darkins added that the telehealth program as a routine of care has resulted in a 30 percent drop in bed days of care and 80 percent satisfaction ratings from patients since the pilot stage in 2005.

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