VA Launches Telemed Pilot Project - InformationWeek

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11/11/2011
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VA Launches Telemed Pilot Project

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs selects American Well and SweetSpot Diabetes Care in its ongoing effort to bring healthcare to veterans in their homes.

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, through its annual industry innovation competition VAi2, recently selected American Well and SweetSpot Diabetes Care, Inc., to collaborate on separate initiatives that will bring telehealth services to veterans in their homes.

"First and foremost the value proposition here for veterans is the increase in access to care that they otherwise struggle to be able to obtain due to either distance, wait times, or other complications," Jonah Czerwinski, director of VAi2, told InformationWeek Healthcare. "The ability to connect patients to providers, patients to specialists, and specialists to providers in a secure, reliable way will integrate well with the continuity of care that VA has been preserving through the electronic health record called VistA."

The pilot project, which will last 18 months, calls for American Well to roll out its Online Care service at two locations, one in Minnesota and the other in Nebraska.

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.

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 these patients live in rural areas and drive long distances for appointments.

[ Legally, EHRs are double-edged swords: They protect clinicians from malpractice litigation but also put them at greater risk. See Will Your EHR Land You In Court? ]

Additionally, an online perioperative practice will be established at NWIHCS to allow surgeons to deliver post-operative care to patients as part of a collaborative team that also includes staff providing home-based primary and extended care.

Czerwinski said the VA estimates that 1,000 patients and physicians will use the Online Care system at these locations in the first quarter of 2012.

American Well’s Online Care service uses two-way video plus secure text chat or phone technology--or both--to enable providers to review patients’ clinical information, discuss symptoms, provide medical advice, and diagnose and prescribe medications. At the end of each online session, a record of the meeting is generated that veterans can share with other healthcare providers.

The VAi2 also announced that SweetSpot Diabetes Care, will pilot an initiative in Dayton, Ohio, to remotely monitor blood glucose levels in veterans with diabetes. By using the SweetSpot system, veterans with diabetes can stay at home and send data from their blood glucose testing devices to VistA. Healthcare providers can monitor this data and will be alerted about abnormalities.

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