The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) found more than 900,000 Veterans used VA telehealth services in fiscal year 2019 (FY) as revealed in a mid-October report.
The 17% increase over the prior fiscal year contributed to VA’s delivery of more than 2.6 million episodes of telehealthcare in FY 2019.
“VA is committed to offering Veterans the health care they deserve, whenever and wherever they need it,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “We want every Veteran to have a choice to schedule an in-person, telephone or video visit with their providers depending on their preferences for health care delivery.”
This comes as VA improves its efforts to inform Veterans about telehealth service options, and with completion of the first full fiscal year of VA’s Anywhere to Anywhere initiative. The telehealth program allows VA health care teams to treat Veterans regardless of their location, including across state lines. By the end of FY 2020, all primary care and mental health providers will be able to deliver care to patients, both in-person and via a mobile or web-based device.
Use of the VA Video Connect app, which connects Veterans to their care teams through a secure video session, increased by 235% in FY 2019. More than 99,000 Veterans used the app at home, eliminating a trip to the nearest VA facility. More than 200,000 or approximately two-thirds of the 294,000 VA Video Connect appointments in FY 2019 were for tele-mental health visits.
Also this October, VA launched ATLAS (Accessing Telehealth through Local Areas Stations) in Eureka, Montana to provide timely care for Veterans who live long distances from VA medical centers or have poor internet connectivity at home. Additional locations are scheduled to open as pilot sites in select American Legion posts, Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and Walmart stores.