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VA Embraces Virtual Care, Testing Bluetooth Hearing Aids

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson speaks. (AP File Photo/Matt York)

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson speaks. (AP File Photo/Matt York)

The Department of Veterans Affairs is running several new medical technology pilots, including systems that could let patients receive healthcare without leaving their homes or neighborhoods, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson told an audience in Washington on Friday. 

With the rapid development of virtual care, or telemedicine, “what we’ve seen is a transformation from primarily an inpatient model to primarily an outpatient model," Gibson said during a conference hosted by tech association AFCEA.

For instance, the VA's Center for Innovation is developing an app that would let technicians adjust patients' hearing aids via a Bluetooth connection, Gibson said. Another developing tech project, called the One-VA Pharmacy, would let pharmacists anywhere access the VA's health IT system and fill a veteran's prescription. 

According to Gibson, nearly one-third of veterans have volunteered to participate in virtual care delivery, up from about 18 percent two years ago. For those patients who don't have broadband connections in their homes, VA is beginning to issue mobile devices, tablets and netbooks with high-speed connections, Gibson added. 

"More and more of our care is going to be delivered virtually," he said. 

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