Alaska, also called the last frontier, is 586,400 square miles. It is the only state in which the state capitol, Juneau, isn’t completely accessible by car (the only “road” into town is the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system). And the lack of roads makes it difficult for VHA doctors to get to their patients. There have even been instances where health care providers have taken floatplanes or horses to get to a patient. Now imagine if that patient had to leave while they were ill. That is one reason why VA has invested in the latest telehealth technology, and Alaska is the perfect example of a community that benefits from telehealth.
Many Veterans in Alaska live in remote or hard-to-reach areas. Now home telehealth leads, like Sinnamon Borey, RN from the Anchorage VA Outpatient Clinic, are now able to monitor and manage chronically ill patients from a distance. The methods of close monitoring, education and open communication between patients and providers have improved patient outcomes. The methods implemented have also led to increased Veteran satisfaction and decreased the number of hospitalizations.
What exactly is telehealth?
Telehealth is the combination of health informatics, disease management and telehealth technologies. These components are used to target care and case management and improve access to care, which improves the lives of Veterans everywhere. Telehealth is available in places where heath care services aren’t routinely provided, places like Juneau. So by utilizing these technologies, VHA can ensure that Veteran patients get the right care in the right place at the right time. VHA aims to make the home the preferred place of care when it’s possible.
Real-time, or Clinical Video Telehealth, allows for real-time communication between patient and health care providers. This is typically done by video-conferencing, but there are also a few peripheral devices that can be attached to computers to facilitate this communication. This video-conferencing aids in interactive examination, and can help the health care provider narrow down the issue and resolve it, which limits the number and length of hospital visits.
This technology has been favorably received by patients; last year more than 677,000 Veterans accessed VA care through telehealth.
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