The number of veterans eligible for long-term institutional care, who were 65 or older, has grown by about 20 percent in the past 5 years. In an effort to improve access to care and the health of veterans, the Department of Veteran Affairs launched VA Telehealth Services, which implements telehealth technologies and uses health informatics and disease management to ensure veteran patients get the right care in the right place at the right time and aims to make the home into the preferred place of care whenever possible.
Whether you are a senior who wants to check in with your nurse to help monitor your depression but can’t get to the clinic or a long-distance caregiver who is worried about whether your loved one is staying on top of their diabetes and hypertension, telehealth is rapidly becoming an attractive option, especially for those veterans who don’t have a VA health care facility close to home.
What Is Telehealth Care?
Also known as care coordination, home telehealth is a service that allows the veteran’s health care team to monitor the veteran’s medical condition remotely using home monitoring equipment. The physician or nurse gets health information about the veteran through personalized questions answered on special equipment and then, if necessary, checks in by phone with next steps.
Because telehealth care is part of the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package, all enrolled veterans are eligible if they meet the clinical need for the service and it is available.
What Services Are Provided?
Home telehealth equipment may be used to track blood pressure, blood sugar levels, pulse, weight, blood oxygen levels, and heart and lung sounds. Through synchronous, real-time or clinical video telehealth, you and your health care provider communicate through video-conferencing equipment. With asynchronous, or store-and-forward telehealth, your medical data is transmitted to your doctor for assessment offline. It does not require the presence of both parties at the same time.
Is Telehealth Care Right for You?
Some important questions to talk about with your nurse or social worker and family include:
- Am I willing to use the home telehealth technology provided by the VA to provide my health-related information daily?
- Am I able to adequately see and/or hear in order to use the technology (or is there someone who can help me with this daily)?
- Am I ready and willing to fully participate in managing my health?
If home telehealth services seem right for you, talk with a member of your care team and then a care coordinator can help you to arrange for services.