Sunday, November 25, 2012

VA Secretary Submits Report

Telehealth based clinical services grew by 66 percent in the last two years according to a report submitted by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki on November 15th to the President and Congress. The report “Performance and Accountability Report” points out that in 2012, the VA greatly improved veterans’ access to telemedicine and mobile clinics and effectively treated six million patients.

This year, the VA used $250 million to support projects designed to increase access and quality of care for rural and highly rural veterans. These projects include rural expansion of home-based primary care and mental health services, support for new rural clinics, and rural veteran outreach through a project referred to as “Project Access Received Closer to Home” (ARCH). Also, the VA partnered with academic affiliations to issue an RFP to develop and implement interdisciplinary rural health training and education programs at five VA sites.

In 2012, 497,342 veteran patients received 1,429,424 telehealth based care delivered from 150 VA Medical Centers and 750 Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOC). Also in 2012, the VA expanded home telehealth services by 31 percent, expanded clinic-based telehealth services by 42 percent, and achieved 39 percent expansion with 76,817 veterans receiving clinical video telemental health from 146 VA Medical Centers and 531 CBOCs. New services are expanding in teleradiology, teledermatology, telepathology, audiology clinic support, tele-intensive care, and women’s health services.

The VA has developed and deployed more than 300 IT applications and uses IT to improve access and improve processing claims. One major initiative, Disability Benefits Questionnaires (DBQ) use streamlined forms designed to capture medical information that veterans can provide to private doctors. As a result, there are more timely rating decisions, fewer duplicated examinations, and reduced need for exams.

The VA has implemented the second phase of the pilot study for their Private Medical Records (PMR) initiative. The PMR initiative uses the services of a contractor to obtain private medical records associated with veterans compensation and/or pension claims. The private medical records are scanned into the virtual VA document repository. To date, there have been more than 2.1 million pages scanned.

So far, the Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) has impacted thousands of veterans and service members by piloting HIE through NwHIN at 13 sites and by sharing over 3 million medical records through the Bidirectional Health Information Exchange and Clinical Health Data Repository. In addition, the use of automated information management and sharing between DOD and VA supports the Federal Recovery Coordinator Program and Integrated Disability Evaluation System.

The VA has been working with social media. Over the past year, the VA implemented Facebook pages for every VA medical center to reach over 109,000 veterans and families at a local level. The Department also uses Twitter to reach over 121,000 veterans each day and Flicker and YouTube have been accessed 2.5 million times since adoption in 2009.

To advance treating veterans with mental health issues, VHA has trained over 4,000 VHA mental health providers on one or more evidence-based psychotherapies for PTSD and/or other mental health conditions. In addition, due to VHA’s expansion of telemental health, veterans can now receive the same level of care regardless of location or proximity to a VA medical center.

The VA has revamped and expanded polytrauma care for veterans by signing a $52 million construction contract for a new polytrauma center in Tampa, opened a new facility in San Antonio, and continues to operate state-of-the-art centers in Minneapolis, Richmond, and Palo Alto.