U.S. Dept of Veteran Affairs announces telehealth initiative

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and American Well (Boston, Mass., U.S.A.), a telehealth software company, on Friday announced an initiative to bring telehealth services to U.S. war veterans in their homes and workplaces. The initiative will use American Well's Online Care system to provide care for veterans, particularly those remotely located from VA medical centers, says American Well.

The Online Care service will aim to improve access by allowing veterans to have online visits with their own providers, as well as multi-disciplinary care teams when needed, through the Internet. Using two-way video, secure text chat and/or phone, providers will be able to review patients' clinical information, discuss symptoms, provide medical advice, and diagnose and prescribe medications as appropriate, according to American Well. At the end of each online consultation, a record will be captured automatically that the Veteran can share with appropriate healthcare providers, maintaining continuity of care.

According to American Well, the initiative with VA will result in three online practices:

  1. In Minnesota, the Minneapolis VA Health Care System (MHCS) will establish an online Behavioral Health Practice that allows its providers to treat existing patients who are remotely located from the MHCS. 

  2. In Nebraska, the Nebraska-Western Iowa Health Care System (NWIHCS) will establish an online Oncology Practice to bring healthcare providers from the Omaha VA Medical Center (VAMC) together with cancer patients across the state, many of whom live in rural areas and are currently required to drive long distances for their appointments.

  3. The NWIHCS will also establish an online Perioperative Practice to allow surgeons to deliver post-operative care to patients via Online Care, as part of a collaborative team that also includes staff providing home-based primary and extended care.

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