VA Maryland Health Care System Surpasses 12,000 Video Visits in 2020

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VA Provides Some Veterans with Smart Devices. Technology enabled the VA Maryland Health Care System to continue to serve veterans in a modified way by safeguarding them through telehealth appointments. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that video telehealth appointments to veterans’ homes increased more than 1000%, as veterans increasingly chose virtual care through VA Video Connect during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Technology enabled the VA Maryland Health Care System to continue to serve veterans in a modified way by safeguarding them through telehealth appointments.

“We wanted to give patients who did not have their own technology, the means that would increase the frequency for visits,” said Luis Luis Kranwinkel, manager of the VA Maryland Health Care System’s Telehealth department.

For Navy veteran and Baltimore native Antwon Boyette, 57, a recent inpatient at the Medical Intensive Care Unit at the Baltimore VA Medical Center for COVID-19, the use of an iPad made a difference in communicating with his physician. “I was in the ICU one day short of a month. When they brought that iPad in, I could communicate with my doctor faster without having to wait for them to put on all the protective gear to talk to me,” he said. “And it made me worry less about possibly exposing anyone else to the virus.”

The use of the iPad and smart devices served as only one of the many ways that the VA Maryland Health Care System deployed technology to care for veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic. The iPads helped inpatients stay in face-to-face contact with their loved ones who were unable to visit due to the pandemic, and they served a vital role in connecting family members to loved ones in end-of-care treatment.

For outpatients, technology enabled the VA Maryland Health Care System to continue to serve veterans in a modified way by safeguarding them through telehealth appointments. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that video telehealth appointments to veterans’ homes increased more than 1000%, as veterans increasingly chose virtual care through VA Video Connect during the COVID-19 pandemic.

VA Video Connect allows veterans and their caregivers to meet virtually with their VA care teams on any computer, tablet or mobile device with an internet connection. As in-person interactions decreased in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, VA Video Connect allowed veterans to continue their care and remain safely at home.

Telehealth milestones for the VA Maryland Health Care System include:

  • VA Video Connect encounters have increased since the beginning of March 2020 and have not stopped increasing with more than 4,200 visits per month during the pandemic, up from 486 per month in the pre-pandemic period.
  • Telehealth Specialty Care appointments comparing Mach 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020 to the same period last year, counted 3,828 encounters compared to 117 in 2019.
  • Telehealth Mental Health appointments comparing March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020 to the same period last year, counted 9,751 encounters, compared to 598 in 2019.
  • Telehealth Primary Care appointments comparing March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020 to the same period last year, counted 283 encounters, compared to 187 in 2019.
  • The VA Maryland Health Care System established two iPad programs, one for inpatients and one for outpatients. In the inpatient program, 30 iPads were available for inpatients to use to connect to their family members. In the outpatient program, the VA Maryland Health Care System has provided more than 125 iPads to patients to keep for two years to ensure they can participate in virtual care as part of VA’s strides to bridge the digital divide for veterans who lack technology or the broad band connectivity required to participate in telehealth services.

“We wanted to increase communication with our COVID-19 inpatients and still allow them to see their family without over exposing staff and family,” said Luis Kranwinkel, manager of the VA Maryland Health Care System’s Telehealth department, who created both programs. “We also wanted to give patients who did not have their own technology, the means that would increase the frequency for visits.”

At the national level, VA is working with strategic partners through the VA Secretary’s Center of Strategic Partnerships to increase access to the technology that veterans need to connect with their VA health care team virtually. Usage of video-to-home services has been increasing since mid-March with peak usage reaching more than 29,000 appointments per day nationally.
“As we near the three-year anniversary of the launch of VA Video Connect, even during these challenging times, VA has and continues to maintain access to high-quality health care for veterans,” said Dr. Adam M. Robinson, Jr., director of the VA Maryland Health Care System “As the service becomes more popular, VA remains committed to providing a seamless user experience to ensure veterans have access to care when and where they need it.”

Read more about VA Video Connect. For information about VA’s telehealth services visit connectedcare.va.gov.

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MEDIA NOTE: To interview a member of the VA Maryland Health Care System telehealth team or to the aforementioned veteran, contact Rosalia Scalia at Rosalia.scalia@va.gov, or by calling 410-736-8444.

The VA Maryland Health Care System (VAMHCS) provides a broad spectrum of medical, surgical, rehabilitative, mental health and outpatient care to veterans at three medical centers and five outpatient clinics located throughout the state. More than 52,000 veterans from various generations receive care from VAMHCS annually. Nationally recognized for its state-of-the-art technology and quality patient care, VAMHCS is proud of its reputation as a leader in veterans’ health care, research and education. It costs nothing for veterans to enroll for health care with the VA Maryland Health Care System and it could be one of the more important things a veteran can do. To enroll for VA health care, interested veterans can call 877-222-8387 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or they can visit http://www.va.gov and clinic on “Apply now for VA health care.”

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Rosalia Maria Scalia
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