As the digital age continues to grow, a mid-October report from the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) showed that during fiscal year 2019, more than 900,000 veterans used VA telehealth services. According to the VA, this is a 17% increase compared to the prior fiscal year.
“VA is committed to offering veterans the health care they deserve, whenever and wherever they need it,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a press statement.
The VA said that they delivered 2.6 million episodes of telehealth care during fiscal year 2019.
“This comes as VA improves its efforts to inform veterans about telehealth service options, and with completion of the first full fiscal year of VA’s Anywhere to Anywhere initiative,” the agency noted.
The Anywhere to Anywhere initiative is a telehealth program that allows VA health care teams to treat veterans across the country regardless of their location—this includes across state lines. The agency noted that by the end of 2020, all primary care and mental health providers will have the ability to deliver care to patients, both in-person and via a mobile or web-based device.
Additional statistics released by the agency show that the use of VA Video Connect, an app that connects veterans to their care teams through a video session, increased 235% in 2019. The VA explained that 99,000 veterans are using this app at home and are traveling less to their nearest VA facility. Further, more than 200,000, or roughly two-thirds of the 294,000 VA Video Connect appointments, were for mental health services.
“We want every veteran to have a choice to schedule an in-person, telephone, or video visit with their providers depending on their preferences for health care delivery,” Mr Wilkie expressed.
The VA also noted that in October they launched ATLAS, or Accessing Telehealth through Local Areas Stations, in Eureka, MT. This program provides care in a timely fashion to veterans who live long distances from a medical center or have poor internet connectivity. The VA hopes to open additional locations as pilot sites in American Legion posts, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, and Walmart stores. —Julie Gould