Tuesday, July 24, 2012

VA Expanding Telemedicine

According to the VA’s Office of Rural Health (ORH), the Veterans Rural Health Resource Center-Eastern Region (VRHRC-ER) is partnering with the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society to help increase awareness of the VA’s telemedicine program that is helping rural veterans with MS.

VA neurologists are providing follow up exams in the homes of rural veterans with MS via telemedicine, but in addition, the Eastern Region has launched a wellness program to provide personalized exercise education and instruction through televideos.

The rural VA Medical Center in Lake City Florida is partnering with the VRHRC-ER to help coordinate services and care for veterans with MS and ALS. The Lake City VAMC is home to the Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Clinic Clinical Demonstration project supported by ORH and led by Dr. Paul M Hoffman, Neurologist and VRHRC-ER Director. The project uses secure televideo to coordinate primary and specialty care provider visits to rural Community- Based Outpatient Clinics and/or to the veteran’s home.

The VA’s VISN 4 is increasing the use of e-consults and today more than 15 of their specialty clinics use e-consults. For example, patient care teams within the VISN meet twice a month using teleconferencing to discuss ways to improve care.

The VISN 4’s teledermatology program, a store and forward program used at Butler Healthcare was recently recognized as one of the top three best practice programs. The estimated savings to Butler was $90,000 in FY 2011.

To help veterans on the legislative front, Representatives Glenn “GI” Thompson (R-PA) and Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) recently introduced the “Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support” (VETS) Act of 2012” (H.R.6107) to increase veteran healthcare access. The bill has the support of twelve bi-partisan members of Congress and numerous other groups including ATA.
The bill expands the current VA state licensure exemption to allow credentialed healthcare professionals to work across state borders performing telemedicine without having to obtain a new state license. The bill will enable the VA to expand key treatment services including behavioral health.

Previously, Congressman Thompson introduced the “Service Members Telemedicine & E-Health Portability Act” now Public Law 112-81 where Section 713 removed the state licensure requirement for qualified and credentialed DOD healthcare professionals when DOD is working to expand access to service members through various existing programs.