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VA Telehealth Access set to Expand in 2017

va telehealthPresident Trump and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin recently announced a new initiative to expand access to telehealth services for veterans across the nation. The importance of improving veterans health care services was stressed throughout the president’s campaign and he has been doing his best to back it up with action since getting into office. Telehealth services aren’t new to the VA but this program is meant to help increase usage and improve convenience, particularly for those living in rural parts of the country. VA telehealth will bring healthcare right to veterans fingertips making it easier than ever for them to receive the care they so greatly deserve.


Appointment Scheduling

This announcement included an app called Veteran Appointment Request that will allow veterans to schedule, change, and cancel appointments on their smartphone or tablet.  “This is all part of our modernizing the VA,” Shulkin said. The application will only be used with veterans seeking an appointment within the VA healthcare system, not with outside clinics that many veterans use under the Veterans Choice Program.

This app will bring much-needed aid in mental health and suicide prevention, according to Trump. The VA is hoping to see an increase in the number of veterans using telehealth services. Shulkin told reporters that about 700,000 veterans made roughly 2 million telehealth appointments last year alone. “I expect this to dramatically increase our numbers from 700,000,” said Shulkin. The VA has been doing a test run of the app and as of right now it’s available in all 18 regions of the country and more than 4,000 appointments have already been booked directly from veterans smartphones.

Shulkin said using smartphones to book appointments will not let veterans cut the line, and will subject to the normal wait times. The VA said wait times vary greatly across the country. Shulkin told USA Today in April that it can be an average wait of eight days in Long Beach, California and 87 days in Santa Fe Springs, California to get a mental health appointment. There are many factors that go into this but hopefully, over time telehealth services will begin to help reduce wait times.


New Regulation

In addition to the app, Shulkin previewed a regulation allowing VA providers to provide telehealth services to veterans anywhere in the country. They are calling this “anywhere to anywhere” VA telehealth. By working with the Office of American Innovation and the Department of Justice they will be issuing a regulation that allows providers to connect with veterans in their homes or any location of their choosing. This change is regulation is following a trend across the country. Currently, 33 states have private parity laws and 8 more are awaiting approval. Usually, telehealth is dealt with on the state level and many states have seen the benefits of expanding patient access to telemedicine.

The VA uses a program called VA Video Connect that allows providers to use mobiles devices to connect with veterans on their smartphones or computers. Shulkin said that this can be used with 50 different specialties. Currently, they use VA Video Connect with over 300 VA providers at 67 hospitals or clinics across the country. This regulation will allow more patients and providers to take advantage of this services.


Telemedicine for Your Practice

It can be incredibly difficult for many veterans to see a doctor in a timely manner or on a regular schedule. Telehealth services can greatly reduce wait times for patients and increase practice efficiency. While VA telehealth is one great use of telemedicine it can be used for almost any kind of appointment. Practices across the country and can reap the benefits of telemedicine and it doesn’t have to be hard.

Follow this telemedicine best practices guide to have a seamless implementation of telehealth in your practice. If you need a little bit more information before deciding to make the change take a look at this definitive guide to learn about streamlined reimbursement, benefits for your practice and patients, and implementation. Telehealth has helped expand millions of patients access to healthcare and this will only continue to grow. Patients are already showing their satisfaction with physicians that have jumped on the telemedicine train and rewarding them with their loyalty. Save your practice and your patients time by getting started with HIPAA-compliant video visits today!

(How much additional revenue could your practice be making after adopting telemedicine? Use our Telemedicine Calculator to find out!)revenue calculator