WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding its telehealth services to meet the growing needs of the 8.5 million veterans it serves.
The expansion will not only make services more accessible, but also increase capacity.
“People always ask us, if we have all of these telehealth services and all of this access to technology, why are there still issues with access to services for some veterans?” said Dr. Kevin Galpin, interim director of the National Telehealth Program. “We’ll be shifting the focus to increasing capacity. We want to get into the metropolitan areas and hire providers, then have them deliver their services to rural sites, increasing the capacity of the telehealth services we provide.”
Already, the VA performed more than 2 million telehealth services last year, reaching more than 677,000 veterans. Telehealth reduced hospital bed days of care by 58% and hospital admissions by 32%.
Going forward, Galpin said the idea is to create tele-primary care provider hubs and tele-mental health care hubs, and to increase the number of appointments at these types of sites.
“We can offer a tremendous amount of care this way,” he said.
The VA categorizes telehealth as clinical video telehealth, home telehealth, and store-and-forward telehealth. Galpin says these services are “mission critical,” especially for those in rural areas.
A pioneer in providing telehealth services, the VA hopes that other providers will follow suit.
“When home health or visiting nurse agencies see what we are doing, they may look at their similar patients and decide they want to do the same kind of thing,” Galpin said. “We are different from providers in the private sector, but we utilize the same goals: we want to take care of people and achieve the best outcomes so they can have the best quality of life.”