Due to the coronavirus pandemic, where many health care systems postponed and cancelled their appointments, the Department of Veteran Affairs was able to quickly switch to a telehealth system to handle all their appointments.
It had already been practicing telehealth care with more than two million episodes delivered during 2019 and conducting 2500 video sessions at the beginning of March.
However, the current pandemic has forced them to expand these telehealth services drastically. This year alone, it has delivered more than nine million telehealth episodes which include more than a million mental health appointments and conducted almost 25 thousand sessions.
There are several reasons for the success of this telehealth system. The workforce was able to come through with their support in terms of a better IT system and adaptable processes, as reported by chief consultant Jennifer MacDonald.
Moreover, almost two-thirds of the primary care and health providers were already familiar with the department’s virtual conferencing platform. The agency also received almost $2 billion in supplemental funding to assist in the infrastructure improvements and more than $17 billion for medical support.
Using these funds, it has purchased additional equipment such as iPads, webcams, headsets, etc., for the health care providers as well as for the veterans who lack the resources to benefit from telehealth care.
It is quite clear that telehealth is not going anywhere anytime soon. Currently, the department and Congress are focusing on how to gradually introduce in-person sessions as well.
Furthermore, it is trying to integrate the telehealth system into its standard services to assist not just veterans who can’t access these services due to the coronavirus, but also any veterans who can’t due to other systematic disadvantages.
How VA Drastically Expanded Telehealth during the Pandemic. Federal News Network, 24 June 2020, federalnewsnetwork.com/veterans-affairs/2020/06/how-va-drastically-expanded-telehealth-during-the-pandemic/.