VA North Texas Health Care System
Delivering the Best Care Anywhere, Everywhere
Not all veterans live within a close driving distance to one of the many health care facilities in VA North Texas Health Care System. Some veterans live in rural areas and have a hard time getting to a provider when necessary. Veterans who live in urban areas may also experience difficulty getting to the hospital or clinic. That's why VA North Texas is working to ensure all veterans, no matter where they live, have an equal opportunity to access their health care benefits.
The most common way for veterans to receive health care is to travel to a local VA medical center or clinic where most, if not all, of their care can be provided. Veterans also have the option of seeking care at community-based outpatient clinics. If a veteran needs to see a specialist such as a cardiologist, neurologist or mental health care provider and it is not available at their facility of choice, they are referred to the VA medical center. That's where telehealth comes in.
Telehealth is a technology that significantly improves the delivery of health care services to veterans who may have a difficult time accessing care at a local facility. Distance, time, weather and personal illness are all valid reasons why telehealth is necessary.
Several key components allow staff to provide this virtual care including store and forward imaging, CVT (clinical video technology) and home telehealth. With store and forward imaging, clinical information like data, images, sound and video is acquired, stored and forwarded for evaluation by a physician. CVT allows veterans and doctors to communicate via clinical video teleconference, much like a regular webcam on a computer would work. Lastly, home telehealth involves the placement of a "health buddy" unit in the home to help nurses keep track of veterans' vitals on a daily basis. The veteran is connected to the VA facility from home using a cell phone, landline, internet or satellite connection. Veterans are using the health buddy to easily and frequently check vital signs. When physicians or nurses receive the information, they can change medications or other treatment plans to prevent serious health problems from developing.
Although telehealth is a great way to facilitate the delivery of health care to patients, the technology and equipment does not replace human touch. "It’s not just about the technology," said Ashley Thomas, Telehealth and Rural Access Program Coordinator for VA North Texas. "With good communication and interaction, patients, health care providers and caregivers all play an important role in making sure the system works," she said.
Veterans can either self-refer into the telehealth program or their doctor can refer them.
VA North Texas takes pride in serving veterans and making sure they receive the treatment and services they rightly deserve. With an increasing diverse population of veterans comes an increasing demand for diverse technologies. Telehealth is just one way to meet those demands.