A telehealth clinic in a VFW post in Montana is the first of several planned by the Department of Veterans Affairs as it moves to improve access to care for veterans living in rural areas.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding its telehealth platform to give veterans access to healthcare at local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.
VFW Post 6786 in Eureka, MT became the first in the nation this week to open a connected health clinic as part of the VA’s ATLAS (Accessing Telehealth through Local Area Stations) program. The project aims to improve access to care for the nation’s 20 million veterans, roughly 5 million of which live in designated rural areas.
“Our goal is to make sure every veteran has access to healthcare,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a press release. “ATLAS eliminates another healthcare hurdle for veterans living in rural areas or with limited Internet access, and it’s a great example of how public and private organizations can work together to solve the challenges of healthcare.”
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The program is a partnership involving the VA, VFW, American Legion and Philips, which is providing the virtual care platform and mHealth devices for the telehealth stations. Clinics will soon be opening at a VFW post in Linesville, PA, a combined VFM/American Legion post in Los Banos, CA and an American Legion post in Springfield, VA.
“Sitting inside state-of-the-art, private, Internet-connected healthcare pods developed and donated by Philips, veterans will benefit from virtual appointments in familiar surroundings conducted by VA medical professionals,” VFW National Commander William J. “Doc” Schmitz said in the press release. “This removes geographic and digital barriers and is the latest way today’s VFW Posts are innovating to address the needs of our Veterans and their families.”
The VA-Philips partnership was unveiled in late 2018 as part of the agency’s “Anywhere to Anywhere VA Health Care” initiative launched a year earlier by Wilkie’s predecessor, David Shulkin. Along with the Philips deal, the VA also forged partnerships with Walmart to establish telehealth clinics in select locations and T-Mobile to host the VA’s Video Connect mHealth app.
While the mHealth app enables veterans to access care from their smartphone or laptop, the Walmart and Philips deals aim to reach veterans who don’t normally use mHealth devices, but would go to a locally located clinic.
“(It) totally changes the VA’s footprint for delivering care,” Deborah Scher, executive adviser to the VA’s Center for Strategic Partnerships, said last year. “We mapped out where our veterans are in greatest concentration against VA facilities, and then we put the Walmart map on top of that. Ninety percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart. Ninety percent of veterans don’t live within 10 miles of a VA medical center. This totally changes their ability to access care in a way that works for their lives.”
VA officials have estimated that the agency’s connected health platform has logged more than 1.3 million video visits serving some 485,000 veterans since 2017. In FY 2019 alone, the platform has seen more than 2.5 million episodes of care.
Source: Mhealth Intelligence