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Larry Dandridge

Learning about VA Telehealth Services, Part II

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Last week’s article on VA Telehealth explained that Telehealth Services are designed to give veterans access to the care they need, when and where they need it. That article also recommended that veterans, their family members, and caregivers read about VA Telehealth at the VA’s Telehealth Services and Help Center websites at https://telehealth.va.gov and https://telehealth.va.gov/help-center.

This week’s article will explain how VA Telehealth Service works from the veteran’s home, the VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs), and the VA medical centers.

How does VA Telehealth work at the veteran’s home?

Veterans can meet with VA Primary and Specialty Care providers (Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, and Physician Assistants) virtually and send, using free Apps, important health data from the comfort of their homes, using their computer, tablet, or mobile device. Read more about at-home telehealth services at https://telehealth.va.gov/type/home.

Scheduling appointments and traveling to their provider’s office can be difficult. Telehealth at home offers services that work with the veteran’s current care plan, fit their lifestyle (Health, COVID, mobility, transportation, and other limitations), and helps veterans stay healthy and independent.

With VA Video Connect, veterans can meet providers in virtual medical rooms using the camera on a smartphone, computer, or tablet. Veterans and their providers work together to schedule online video appointments. Veterans can even invite family members and caretakers to join the sessions.

The VA recommends that veterans talk with their VA provider about using VA Video Connect if the veteran lives far from your VA facility or has limited access to VA facilities, has health conditions that make traveling to the VA specialist they need difficult, lacks time to regularly attend in-person appointments, or does not require a hands-on physical examination.

Once a veteran makes an appointment to meet with their VA provider through VA Video Connect, they will receive an email notification from the VA with instructions. On the date and time of the veteran’s appointment, the veteran opens VA Video Connect by selecting the appointment link included in the email they will receive from the VA.

Veterans can learn more about VA Video Connect and watch the helpful videos on how to use and troubleshoot Video Connect at https://mobile.va.gov/app/va-video-connect. The VA’s Office of Connected Care Help Desk is open 24/7, and the phone number is 866-651-3180.

How does VA Telehealth work at the Community-Based Outpatient Clinic?

According to the information at https://telehealth.va.gov/type/clinic, telehealth technology in the clinic brings specialty staff and services closer to home. It allows veterans to connect with VA health specialists at medical centers nationwide from their community clinic. Providers make diagnoses, manage care, and perform check-ups virtually.

Veterans can meet with their primary care provider from a convenient clinic location. Using video and special devices, a veteran’s primary care provider can observe the session as if they were in the same room. Clinic-based telehealth uses a team model of care, in which another health provider conducts in-person exams.

Veterans in the Lowcountry of S.C. and Georgia are fortunate to have one of the VA’s leading Regional Telehealth Mental Health Centers supporting them. The Ralph H Johnson VAMC provides mental health treatment and addiction treatment in the following settings (1) hospital inpatient, (2) outpatient mental health rehabilitation, partial hospitalization (day) treatment, and (3) telehealth.

Health data in the form of sounds, images, and video can be collected at a clinic near the veteran and sent to a provider to review at another location. Store and Forward Telehealth lets veterans address health issues without the need for long travel or wait times.

Telehealth enables veterans to connect to the quality care they need in more than 50 specialty areas from the veteran’s local VA clinic. The VA’s ever-expanding list of specialty services available through telehealth gives veterans access to experts from thousands of miles away.

How does VA Telehealth work in the VA Medical Center?

According to the VA’s Telehealth site at https://telehealth.va.gov/type/hospital, Telehealth in hospitals helps VA providers collaborate to improve veterans’ care, whether they share an office or work on opposite sides of the country.

The VA Tele-ICU program brings specialty providers into intensive care unit rooms using video. Their input helps providers at the veteran’s facility care for the veteran during crucial points of veterans’ care. Tele-ICU rooms have TV screens, cameras, and call buttons to contact specialists. Providers can also speak with the veteran, review the veteran’s charts and make notes about their condition.

The VA’s Telestroke program supports VA facilities that lack around-the-clock acute stroke coverage. The faster a veteran can get specialized stroke care, the better the chance of recovery. TeleStroke neurologists can examine a veteran using a video tool and help the veteran’s local provider make a diagnosis and recommend treatment.

Things veterans and their families and caregivers should remember

Veterans should ask their doctor (Or NP or PA) how telehealth can become a part of their care plan.

Besides your provider, nurse, and social worker, the VA’s Patient Advocates/Customer Service Specialists and Health Care Enrollment Coordinators can answer questions about VA Telehealth. The RHJVAHCS Patient Advocate Office phone numbers are 843-789-6500 and 843-789-6066 and the Healthcare Eligibility Office phone number is 843-789-7008.

Veterans, their family members, and caregivers should read about VA Telehealth Services online at https://telehealth.va.gov and https://telehealth.va.gov/help-center.

If you are a veteran and are not currently enrolled in VA health care, apply online, by phone, in person, or by mail. Learn online how to apply at the VA’s How to Apply For VA Health Care website, https://www.va.gov/health-care/how-to-apply/. The RHJVAHCS Healthcare Eligibility and Enrollment Office phone number is 843-789-7008.

Take advantage of the VA’s world-class telehealth services and spread the word to other veterans about the advantages of VA Telehealth.

You can read past veterans’ benefits articles written by Larry Dandridge for The Island News at www.yourislandnews.com.

Larry Dandridge is a Vietnam War wounded warrior, disabled veteran, ex-Enlisted Infantryman, ex-Warrant Officer Pilot, and retired Lt. Colonel. He is a past Veterans Service Officer, a Patient Adviser at the RHJ VA Hospital, the Fisher House Charleston Good Will Ambassador, and the VP for Veteran Affairs for the local Army Association Chapter. Larry is the author of the award-winning book Blades of Thunder and a contributing free-lance writer with the Island News. Contact him at LDandridge@earthlink.net or 

843-276-7164.

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