A few months ago, a young veteran was struggling to get the therapy he needed. He drove 45 minutes each way, fighting traffic. By the time he arrived, he was frustrated, upset, and not in the best frame of mind for a productive session.
Unfortunately, this vet was not alone. However, these struggles in vets' access to the healthcare they needed prompted the VA Hospitals to use telemedicine to solve it -- at least for vets with mental health needs. Now this vet participates in the VA's tele-mental health program, meaning that he does his therapy from home, feeling relaxed, prepared, and ready to heal.
This piece on the VA's program is a rare bright spot in news on the VA. The much-embattled department has been struggling to keep up with claims and services. So the fact that they've been able to integrate telemedicine is even more impressive.
Clearly, there is an opportunity for a more comprehensive and thoughtful usage of telemedicine (particularly Hybrid Store-and-Forward Telemedicine) throughout the VA. But we think that the fact that military vets are accessing the service and the VA is administering it demonstrates a number of key medical collaboration and telemedicine insights:
- Start small. The VA created a pilot program first, them expanded to multiple hospitals. They're still only using telemedicine in mental health so they're still "starting small" but the impacts remain important.
- Consider the reputational effect. The fact that this article was written is strong proof that even incremental innovations can have a strong and positive effect on organizations' reputations and goodwill in the community.
- See it as an investment, not an expense. The VA says the telehealth program has reduced veterans’ bed days by 58 percent and admissions by 38 percent. It's very possible that they're already seeing a net profit from the program.
Want the "cliff notes" to telemedicine options? Click here for our Quick Guide: