Veterans Affairs pushes telehealth expansion

Goal is to better manage chronic diseases.

The Veterans Affairs Department plans to double the number of veterans reached through telehealth next year, according a report released Friday by Government Health IT. A goal of the initiative is to better manage chronic diseases. 

The VA hopes to reach about 825,000 veterans through mobile health and telehealth by the end of 2013 – up from 460,000 this year, says Dr. Adam Darkins, the VA’s chief telehealth services consultant, according to the publication.

The plan calls for improving chronic disease management by moving about 13,000 veterans from interactive voice-response monitoring to video conferencing, says Darkins, according to the report.

Speaking to an audience at last week’s Connected Health Symposium, Darkins said that telehealth had slashed the number of bed days of care by 30 percent, saving $1,900 per year per patient since 2005, according to the report. The symposium was held by the Center for Connected Health, a division of Partners HealthCare. According to the center’s website, Partners HealthCare is a Boston-based health care delivery system founded by its Harvard Medical School affiliated teaching institutions, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.

The VA plans to reach more patients by increasing home-based video consults, e-consults and teleradiology programs, according to the report. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki has noted that telehealth services also help the agency to deliver better care to veterans in rural areas.

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