VA telehealth leaders and Philips Healthcare briefed members of the U.S. Congress Oct. 29, on the Project Advancing Telehealth through Local Access Stations, or (ATLAS). The team discussed how it will extend VA Telehealth to rural and underserved Veterans.
ATLAS will allow Veterans to be examined at their local Veterans service organization posts through virtual appointments with medical professionals across. This nationwide access provides Veterans with convenient access to care in their community. ATLAS also provides Veterans with a private, comfortable appointment room to receive VA care.
Deborah Lafer Scher, Executive Advisor to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, who leads the Secretary’s Center for Strategic Partnerships, said ATLAS fulfills VA’s Anywhere to Anywhere telehealth initiative. She also discussed Philips’ pledge to create and donate the equipment for placement in spaces.
“There is a tremendous opportunity for Veterans to receive quality health care where they live,” Scher said. “ATLAS, combined with the power of the VA Video Connect application, has the potential to transform health care throughout the country. This collaboration showcases the future of health care.”
VA and Philips began testing the Atlas prototypes in three locations: Eureka, Montana; Linesville, Pennsylvania; and Los Banos, California. The first ATLAS debuted Oct. 16, at VFW Post 6786 in Eureka, Montana, where Veterans previously had to travel more than 225 miles to the nearest VA medical center.
VA provides health care to nearly 9 million Veterans, one-third of whom live in rural areas. VA recently announced that it achieved more than 1 million video telehealth visits in fiscal year 2018. This was a 19% increase in video telehealth visits over the previous year.
Dr. Kevin Galpin, Executive Director of VHA Telehealth Services and Dr. Leonie Heyworth, VA Director of Synchronous Telehealth, provided their insight of ATLAS. They also discussed how remote telehealth exam rooms will enable Veterans to conduct virtual appointments with VA care teams and specialists.
“ATLAS will eliminate barriers for Veterans living in rural areas or with limited broadband access,” Heyworth said. “It’s a great example of how VA and private organizations work together to provide quality health care to Veterans, no matter where they live.”
Members of Congress were eager to learn how Veterans can use this new service and how other initiatives could further enhance this service. VA team members also answered questions about plans for additional sites and how these stations will enhance care for Veterans.
Veterans interested in this program are encouraged to contact their local VA medical centers to determine service availability in their local area. For more information on VA’s telehealth programs, visit www.telehealth.va.gov.
Shawn Graham is a communications and portfolio manager for the Secretary’s Center for Strategic Partnerships