VA Palo Alto Health Care System
VA Treats Aching Veterans Over the Internet
March 29, 2012 - Veterans in the Central Valley now receive rheumatology appointments at the VA Modesto clinic without a doctor present. This is not a self-help clinic but the Telehealth program offered at VA Palo Alto Health Care System, using a secure live video connection that allows the clinician to hear heartbeats, focus in on veins, and even look down the throats and ears of Veterans located miles away.
Rheumatology providers deal mainly with clinical problems involving joints, soft tissues, autoimmune diseases, vasculitis, and heritable connective tissue disorders. Veterans are normally unable to receive sufficient care for these disorders at local clinics, and travel to larger facilities is hard on the body. These problems prompted the health care system to find new ways to help Veterans while reducing travel.
"On average, telehealth has helped patient pain thresholds. Pain scales, on a scale of 10, have dropped from eights or nines to twos and threes,” said Kathy Hunter, CRNP-DNP, who runs the clinic.
Saving patients more than 40 miles of driving, the new Telehealth clinic has grown steadily with word of mouth spreading fast. According to Hunter, recent patients are excited to schedule future appointments and her schedule stays filled. The program is planning to expand to other clinics including Stockton and Sonora, possibly even connecting patients in Livermore to Palo Alto providers.
Not only is the program helping Veterans but it is saving tax dollars in the process. From the start of the program, travel reimbursements are lower than usual and pain medications have reduced by almost 75 percent.
"It's the future of cost effective health care," says Hunter.
Clinicians use health informatics, disease management and Telehealth technologies to improve the health of Veterans. Services include mental health and a variety of medical and allied health services over secure video; however, the Telehealth clinics offered at each health care system may vary. VA Palo Alto Health Care System's secure video Telehealth program provides everything from medication evaluation and management to group therapy and exposure therapies for PTSD.
Visit the VA Telehealth website for more information.