VA Video Connect visits increase over 1,800% regionwide during COVID-19 pandemic
Vermont Business Magazine The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced that video telehealth appointments to Veterans’ homes increased over 1000%, as Veterans increasingly chose virtual care through VA Video Connect during the COVID-19 pandemic. The VA White River Junction Healthcare System in White River Junction is up 1,591 percent (4,563 visits).
In New England, VA medical centers and sites of care have conducted 87,296 VA Video Connect appointments between February and July 1. Because VA New England already had a robust telehealth infrastructure in place, the health care system was able to ramp up its telehealth capabilities to meet increased demand.
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 supported Veterans’ abilities to continue care and remain safely at home. Usage of video to home services has been increasing since mid-March with peak usage reaching over 29,000 nationwide appointments per day. Peak usage here in New England has resulted in more than 1,557 appointments per day.
Veterans have commented in post-appointment surveys that they are relieved to be able to maintain continuity of care. Most report that they have not had trouble adjusting to the new technology. Veterans have also told VA New England that they are satisfied to have their health care needs met virtually without interrupting their care.
The increase throughout the VA New England Healthcare System represents a 1,833 percent increase since the start of the pandemic. VA New England’s telehealth encounters, overall, have nearly quadrupled in the past six months over the same period in 2019. From October 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, VA New England reported 31,658 telehealth encounters. From October 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020, VA New England has reported 113,766 encounters.
“VA New England’s connected health continuum, rapid digital upscaling, and virtual care provider network has been integral to the provision of critical healthcare services and the safety of Veterans and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic response,” said Lisa Eisele, a registered nurse and VA New England Healthcare System Connected Care Program director. “A major component of this network has been VA Video Connect. We’ve surpassed – nearly doubled – the national response so we are very proud of how many Veterans have used this critical telehealth option for connecting with our health care teams.”
Eisele noted that the VA is nearing the three-year anniversary of the launch of VA Video Connect. The popular service provides a seamless experience for Veterans to ensure they have access to care “where and when they need it,” she said.
As of June 1, VA Video Connect has reported similar significant increases seen since the start of the pandemic at each of VA New England’s health care systems as follows. The total numbers reported at each system, between Feb. 1 and June 1, are noted in parenthesis.
Bedford VA Medical Center, Bedford, Mass. – 1,623 percent (5,298)
VA Boston Healthcare System – 1,584 percent (16,075)
VA Central Western Massachusetts Healthcare System – 1,969 percent (6,061)
VA Connecticut Healthcare System – 1,315 percent (7,637)
Manchester VA Medical Center, Manchester, N.H. – 2,032 percent (3,862)
Providence VA Medical Center, Providence, R.I. – 3,015 percent (8,228)
VA Maine Healthcare System – 2,032 percent (5,612)
VA White River Junction Healthcare System, White River Junction, Vt. – 1,591 percent (4,563)
VA is also taking strides to bridge the digital divide for Veterans who lack the technology or broadband internet connectivity required to participate in VA telehealth services. 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.
ABOUT VA NEW ENGLAND: VA New England Healthcare System, or VISN 1, is one of 18 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. VISN 1 has 11 medical centers, 45 CBOCs, six community living centers and two domiciliaries.