Sunday, February 3, 2013

Increasing Access to Telehealth

The Veterans Administration awarded 33 grants to VA facilities for projects to improve emergency healthcare services for women veterans, to expand women’s health education, and to offer telehealth programs to female veterans in rural areas. The winning proposals were jointly supported by the VHA’s national Women’s Health Program Office, Office of Rural Health, and the Office of Healthcare Transformation

Services that received grants in telehealth include telemental health, telegynecology, telepharmacy, and telephone maternity care coordination. Education grants will expand mini-residency training for VA providers and nurses in primary care and emergency services.

The grants to provide telehealth for women veterans were awarded to the VA New Jersey HCS/VISN 3, VA Maryland HCS/VISN 5, VA Health Care System of Ohio/VISN 10, VA hospital Illiana HCS/VISN 11, St. Louis VAMC/VISN 15, VA Eastern Kansas HCS/VISN 15, El Paso VA HCS/VISN 18, Northern Arizona VA Healthcare/VISN 18, Greater Los Angeles HCS/VISN 22, and Minneapolis/VISN 23.

Telehealth is also being used at the Fayetteville VA Medical Center, where a Facility Pain committee is creating a multidisciplinary pain clinic to provide treatments ranging from physical therapy to interventional anesthesiology for veterans suffering from chronic pain.

Today, classes are offered to veterans using telehealth. Using telehealth is very effective because chronic pain is a widespread problem and there is a lack of local providers with specialized training in the biopsychosocial model of pain.

Veterans are able to participate in classes from six different locations at the same time. The classes focus is on how behaviors, thoughts, and emotions can increase or decrease the perception of pain. The classes also discuss how pain can interfere with veterans’ activities.

Topics range from what you can and can’t expect your pain medications to do, how to avoid becoming physically weak and having more pain, and how to keep family relationships healthy despite the pain. Veterans report that they are learning information and skills that they didn’t know about despite being treated for chronic pain for more than 30 years. 

In other VA news, Cheyenne VA Medical Center’s telehealth clinic in Laramie Wyoming has moved from a mobile van into a permanent home. At this time, the Cheyenne VAMC with the American Legion Post 14 has established an education effort with the Laramie County Community College (LCCC). The college conducts a clinical program in the region for student nurses to gain practical hands-on experience working with telehealth technologies.

According to the Cheyenne VA Medical Center Director, Dr. Cynthia McCormack, “Veterans throughout Albany County will benefit from this collaboration and this will result in additional VA telehealth services to be available such as tele-pain, tele-endocrinology, and tele-women’s clinics.