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Category: US Department of Veterans Affairs

VA Telehealth Services: Transforming Veteran Care

For solid evidence of the benefits of telehealth, look no further than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Long considered a national leader in virtual care adoption, VA telehealth services reflect an all-in commitment to using technology to enhance healthcare access, capacity, quality, and experience for Veterans, their families, and caregivers.

Like their compatriots in the public healthcare sector, VA facilities saw a tremendous uptick in telehealth utilization during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Veterans’ use of audio-only virtual visits has since leveled off, video-based telehealth use by Veterans has surged by 2,300% compared to pre-pandemic levels, according to recent research.

VA Telehealth Trends

VA telehealth services make care accessible in Veterans’ homes and communities in multiple ways, including:

Preventing suicide, which disproportionately impacts Veterans, is one core objective the VA seeks to meet by improving Veteran access to care, in part through telehealth. In 2021, more than 98% of VA mental health providers conducted at least one video visit with a Veteran, demonstrating how integral virtual access is to providing much-needed care to those who have served our country.

The VA also recognizes telehealth as an essential element in improving healthcare accessibility for rural and unhoused Veterans. In 2021, the VA reported a 2,800% increase in virtual care provided to highly-rural Veterans. The national health system also distributed more than 57,000 tablets to Veterans without access to video-capable devices or the internet to support virtual visits in 2021.

In 2022, more than a third of all Veterans who received care from the VA used telehealth. Today, video visits account for roughly 12% of outpatient care for Veterans. As of April 2023, telehealth utilization accounted for 36.7% of all visits across primary, subspecialty, and mental health services provided by the VA.

Virtual Care Lessons from the VA

The VA’s commitment to telehealth ensures that Veterans can connect and receive care anytime and anywhere. Here are a few lessons that private sector healthcare organizations can draw from the VA’s experience.

  1. It takes a village: A multi-faceted approach to care that offers in-person and remote engagement opportunities is table stakes in ensuring health equity. The VA’s inclusion of community partners and non-traditional care sites in promoting Veterans’ health contributes to the organization’s success and should be echoed throughout the industry.
  2. Overcoming state licensure issues: The VA’s authority to conduct telehealth services across state lines, bypassing state-specific licensure requirements, helps increase Veteran access to care. Amplifying similar legislative efforts within the private sector could reap similar results for larger patient populations.
  3. Patient enablement in the home: The VA’s track record with in-home remote patient monitoring programs and device distribution to support unhoused Veteran access to care offers other healthcare organizations a blueprint to draw from for emerging hospital-at-home care models.

Future Goals

The VA continues to make strides in telehealth services. As stakeholders with the VA’s Office of Connected Care put it, “Telehealth is being integrated into core operations throughout VA, with adoption growing remarkably over the past several years. As we now look to a post-pandemic future, we anticipate continued growth of telehealth utilization across VA, making quality VA healthcare more accessible, convenient, and efficient.”

The Veterans Health Administration endorsed a five-year strategic vision for connected care with goals to enhance Veteran digital engagement, deliver healthcare without walls, and solidify connected care’s foundations. “This vision includes deploying digital tools that allow Veterans to connect with VA and their healthcare services at any time, delivering even more care into the home through video telehealth and remote monitoring, expanding clinic capacity by using telehealth to match supply and demand across VA’s expansive geographic footprint, enhancing Veteran access to rare national expertise irrespective of the Veteran’s location in the country, and much more.”

Caregility is proud to work with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in support of telehealth initiatives aimed at enhancing care for Veterans, their families, and caregivers.

Learn more about our federal telehealth program offerings.