VA Palo Alto Health Care System
Mobile Technology Brings Care to Veterans in Need
Veterans most in need of medical care may be homeless, homebound, and unaware of their benefits. They may also be without the means or ability to travel to a distant VA facility. At the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS), the Veteran Outreach team travels around nine vast counties of Northern California and brings care directly to Veterans.
The teams are equipped with mobile devices (tablets), which enable access to critical information whether they are at a homeless clinic, in a medical outreach van, at a patient’s home, or even amid areas affected by recent forest fires.
VA Palo Alto HCS Outreach Coordinator Kelly Conway, DNP, CNS, coordinates outreach events to enroll homeless Veterans in VA’s system, and ensures they receive any necessary medical attention from on-site medical providers. The Outreach team visits soup kitchens, detox facilities, shelters, churches and libraries in search of Veterans needing assistance.
“I’m the outreach coordinator for nine counties managing mobile medical outreach teams,” Conway said, who has been working for VA for 31 years. “Remote access with our [mobile] devices is critical to this work and increases Veterans’ access to health care.”
VA Medical Outreach Teams, Mobile Technology and Forest Fires
This summer, several areas of Northern California were struck by forest fires. As a result, medical services were disrupted and hundreds of Veterans left without access to medical care. The Veteran Outreach team travels to these areas and provides critical services such as writing prescription refills, treatment with inhalers on-site, checking Veterans’ lungs, and many other services.
Medical Outreach Section Chief Jean Lighthall, MD, spends her days traveling around the Bay Area treating Veterans in need of care, even if that means going to areas impacted by forest fires.
“Remote access with my device is critical to my work,” said Dr. Lighthall. “My device helps me to log into the VA intranet to review patients’ charts, check on VA guidelines and stay connected with email, no matter where I am.”
What are the Benefits of Tablets for Care Delivery?
VA-issued tablets were delivered to 20 care team members at VA Palo Alto HCS as part of a pilot project of the Mobile Health Provider Program. The devices are equipped with cellular capability, security measures, a touch-screen, a stylus and a detachable keyboard. All of the devices are tablets, which are lightweight but sturdy, and powerful enough to be used on a daily basis in the field.
As the program evolves over the course of the next year, so will the opportunities to use mobile technology to improve Veteran care. VA will release a series of mobile apps that will allow for mobile-optimized access to real-time VistA/CPRS information to inform clinical decisions. These VA-developed apps will enable VA care teams to write progress notes, enter a subset of orders, and complete other clinical tasks as well as support specific common workflows.