Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Technology to Help Veterans

With chronic diseases on the rise and the aging of veterans there is going to be an increased demand for limited healthcare resources. The VA is continually addressing these issues and looking at the most advanced medical technologies to help veterans receive the care that is needed.

Several companies working with the veteran population appeared at the recent House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Subcommittee on Health and described how their company’s solution can help VA facilities utilize wireless services to help vets receive care especially in rural communities.

John Mize, Director for LifeWatch Services, Inc., in Rosemont IL, a GSA small business vendor presented his company’s technology as an example of what can be accomplished to treat rural patients. The LifeStar Ambulatory Cardiac Telemetry (ACT) platform is able to automatically and instantly detect and transmit clinically significant changes in heart rate and rhythm.

The transmission is sent via a cellular network such as Verizon to one of the monitoring facilities where certified cardiovascular technicians are available 24/7. The technicians view the transmission, edit the EKG data, create a report, and then send it to the clinician to go in the electronic medical record via a secure password.

For example, the Las Vegas VA Medical Center was flying patients to San Diego to be hooked up to antiquated technology. The VA clinic made the decision to use ACT and now the veterans are able to remain in their homes for diagnostic care.

According to a recent article published in USA Today, “Veterans are four times more likely than other Americans to suffer from sleep apnea. About 5 percent of all Americans suffer from sleep apnea compared to 20 percent of veterans.”

To meet this market need, Mize discussed how LifeWatch recently introduced a home sleep testing service to diagnose Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The service called NiteWatch will potentially reduce costs for the severely overburdened sleep labs within the Department of Veterans Affairs. It also will save the VA millions in lost revenue from fees paid to commercial sleep labs

Dan Frank, Managing Partner for Three Wire Systems LLC in Vienna Virginia explained how their Vet Advisor Support Program provides mental health outreach and health coaching services to OEF/OIF veterans and their families in both urban and rural areas.

VetAdvisor provides complementary, non-clinical support to veterans by using telehealth platforms to enable veterans to stay connected and to focus on health and medical concerns without leaving their home.

As Frank explained in the past, veterans who opted to use their virtual world health coaching program required wired broadband internet connectivity for their desktop or laptop computers to access a 3D environment so that they could work with their health coach. Frank explained that one of the problems facing veterans in rural areas is obtaining wired services. To make it easier for vets, VetAdvisor will launch a virtual world smartphone capability in the fall of 2010. If veterans opt to not use the virtual world, they can simply use their cell phones to obtain health coaching services.

Kent E. Dicks, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman and Founder of MedApps, Inc., in Scottsdale Arizona, said, “The VA could potentially extend its capacity for remote monitoring on a daily basis from 35,000 patients currently to over 100,000 patients by using innovative mobile enable medical technology.”

He showed how MedApps HealthPal technology can work effectively to enable a patient to stay connected with their EHR and their caregiver. A doctor may ask a veteran with COPD or CHF to take a reading once a day in order to make sure that they are staying within the safe zones. He was able to demonstrate how the Pulse Oximeter reading went automatically over to the HealthPAl without the patient having to press any buttons and does this by using Bluetooth wireless technology.

The HealthPal has mobile phone technology using a technology called “Machine 2 Machine” (M2M). It works by having the 3G mobile broadband chipset the size of a quarter that is embedded in the device connect veterans to their healthcare providers.

Dicks concluded by saying, “Wireless mobile technology is available today but robust mobile networks need to start right away to bring care to where it is so desperately needed. The VA and the country as a whole could save a significant amount of time, money, and natural resources by using mobile wireless enabled medical technology.”