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VA building up its telehealth capabilities

July 31, 2013 | Telepresence Options

va telehealth

Story by Leo Shane III / Stars and Stripes

WASHINGTON -- Today, a veteran can see a specialist for post-traumatic stress disorder treatment without leaving the comfort of his home.

Veterans Affairs officials wish more would.

VA health leaders showed off a wide range of remote medical offerings Tuesday at their first Connected Health Showcase, an event designed to highlight telehealth advances but also tout the department's place as a leader in cutting-edge health care delivery.

Dr. Robert Petzel, VA undersecretary for health, said the goal is to increase both outreach for veterans not in the system and access for patients already receiving care.

Programs launched in recent months include sharing electronic medical record access for veterans' home caregivers, prosthetic check-ups via online conferencing, and a host of counseling appointments available to veterans through their personal computers.

Petzel said one veteran currently receiving PTSD counseling now managed to significantly drop his stress level and improve his progress just by skipping the 45-minute drive to his therapist's office, thanks to recently available online sessions.

"This is going to be the way we do business," Petzel said. "This is the way medicine is going to be delivered."

About 1 million veterans already use some type of VA telehealth offering. Petzel said he hopes to boost that number to more than 4 million -- about two-thirds of veterans receiving some VA health care -- in years to come.

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