Many clinics and offices have begun to utilize telehealth as a patient care resource. However, one of the areas in which this technique has shown immediate results is within the Department of Veterans Affairs. There are many reasons why the VAs Video on Demand program has been successful.
One of the main reasons for this success is the simple matter of transportation. Many veterans live in rural areas that don’t have a VA clinic. That means that for each visit these patients would have to make extended drives to see a physician. This can be painful to some individuals. Additionally, many have disabilities that require unique transportation needs and possibly assistance. Not to mention the expenses associated with travel such as gas and lodging. Now that telehealth is an option, these same individuals can receive health care without the burden of travel.
Another advantage of telehealth is improved communication between the physician and patient. Unfortunately, in-person visits have a lot variables that may change from visit to visit. Maybe the administrative staff has changed since the last visit and they ask for information that has previously been covered. Even worse, sometimes the clinician changes from appointment to appointment. This makes it difficult for the care to be quality and seamless. However, technology offers the opportunity for individuals to set up recurring appointments with the same clinician they are used to. This means less repeating themselves and more comfort. They can discuss their health updates without having to start from the beginning. It also increases the attention and preparedness of both parties as they know when the visit will be and can put aside distractions such as lobby wait times or other patients. Overall, when patients are able to establish good trust and communication it can really reduce their symptoms and improve their health care experience.
Patients also report that they feel that virtual appointments improve the communication among their providers. This is critical because miscommunications between a physician and nurse or physician and pharmacist can be dangerous or even deadly. Of course, patients should feel free to do their own research about medications they’ve been prescribed and may consequently catch miscommunications, but avoiding these mistakes before they happen is not only more safe but also helps build trust. The VA has established a system so that pharmacist will periodically have a virtual call with patients to get updates on the patients health and make recommendations or adjustments as necessary. This process is also implemented for specialist or therapists that the patient may see. In this way, patients can see that each of their providers are working together and staying informed.
In the end, virtual care is more than just a convenience for veterans. Sometimes it is the only difference between an individual receiving care and remaining independent versus becoming hospitalized or having little quality of life. Patients are reporting feeling that their care is more important, more coordinated, and more safe.