Paralyzed Vietnam Veteran Roger Harris lives at a VA Community Living Center (CLC). He’s receiving specialty wound care for a severe pressure injury that he developed many years ago.
But when the COVID-19 pandemic started, his wife Betty was no longer able to visit him because of physical distancing precautions. The situation became harder on them both. As a result, VA’s Dr. Mona Baharestani and Harris’ care team developed a plan that would allow Roger to move back home and receive care there.
As a nurse researcher and wound specialist, Dr. Mona Baharestani knows the importance of Veterans receiving proper wound care.
Baharestani and her dedicated team of board-certified wound care nurses care for Veterans with surgical wounds, pressure injuries, diabetic foot ulcers and other chronic wounds every day.
Baharestani is associate chief of the Wound Care and Research Programs at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center in Mountain Home, Tennessee.
Many of Baharestani’s patients find traveling to VA for appointments difficult. Either the distance from their homes to the hospital is too great or they have limited transportation options. For those patients, Baharestani knew there had to be a better way.
In 2015, Baharestani stood up a TeleWound program. This program has now become a national initiative known as the “No Wound Left Behind” initiative (NWLBI). The initiative helps Veterans receive wound care virtually at VA outpatient clinics or in their own homes.
Same quality of care as an in-person visit
The program uses telehealth technology to provide virtual visits with wound specialists who can examine Veterans’ wounds visually. The specialists also determine the patients’ progress toward healing and makes recommendations to ensure they receive the same quality of care they would receive through an in-person visit.
Harris (pictured above with his wife, Betty) receives visits from a home-based care team. Also, he receives medical support from Betty and weekly TeleWound visits with Baharestani. Roger, Betty and Baharestani use VA Video Connect to check Roger’s progress. So far, things have been going well. Consequently, the Harris’ are grateful to be able to spend this time at home together.
“Dr. Baharestani is so attentive and patient. It is unreal. She really prepared us to navigate the process ahead of time. My wife and I had no issues tending to my wounds after I returned home,” Harris said. “Every Veteran should take advantage of this program if they are eligible. Wounds can get out of hand fast, and this program takes that fear away.”
Transforming how Veterans receive wound care
NWLBI is just one example of the innovative ways VA nurses and other health care providers are using the practice of health informatics to improve how they deliver care.
Baharestani’s program has transformed how Veterans receive care for chronic wounds. She provides evaluations of the vital need for wound care and understanding of the strain of repeated in-person visits. She also can reimagine health care delivery.
Earlier this month, Baharestani’s work was recognized when she received a 2020 national FedHealthIT Innovation Award. NWLBI is also supported by:
- VHA Office of Nursing Services
- Office of Connected Care
- Quality Enhancement Research Initiative (QUERI)
- Diffusion of Excellence program
- Clinical specialties, including spinal cord injury and podiatry
NWLBI is gearing up to expand across the country, introducing this innovative approach to Veteran care nationwide. Check with your local VA provider to find out if TeleWound appointments can work for you. You can also learn more about additional VA telehealth options by visiting https://telehealth.va.gov/.
VHA Office of Communications: This story is part of a VA series recognizing 2020 as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. VA salutes the more than 100,000 VA nurses who work tirelessly every day to serve Veterans in communities across the country. VA nurses are committed to taking care of Veterans. They bring comfort and hope to thousands of patients. They serve 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We invite you to show your support for these everyday heroes. Thank a nurse at your next telehealth or in-person appointment!