Telehealth Helps Doctors Keep Caring For Veterans

Mar 30, 2020

COVID-19 has kicked the use of telehealth into high gear. Kaiser Health News reports the Cleveland Clinic logged 60,000 such visits in March, up from an average of 3,400. For some hospital systems, like the Cincinnati VA Medical Center, telehealth success is the result of years of planning and use.

The vast majority of non-emergency VA care is now being provided remotely, with mixed success nationally, according to Politico.

But in Southwest Ohio, the system is running smoothly says Staff Physician Dr. Paul Sklena. He's been working the past two years to build it up. "We've gone through the process of educating all of our providers on how to use the system properly and to certify them ready to do visits. And then to get access for them on the computers to equip all the computers with microphones and cameras."

Right now he's making sure if providers are quarantined, they can keep caring for veterans.

"Obviously nobody wants to be in the midst of this particular situation and I think one of the silver linings for me is the fact that we are going to very quickly get dramatically better at using this technology to improve the health and wellbeing of our veterans," Sklena says.

Cincinnati VA Also Providing Remote Care For Sickest Patients Nationally

The current care is a culmination of monitoring critically ill patients remotely for years. The Cincinnati VA does it in the Downtown federal building for many hospitals east of the Mississippi, as reported by WVXU in 2018.

The Cincinnati VA says it welcomes questions other hospitals may have about its virtual visit technology. Here's a national video explaining to veterans how to use it.

University of Cincinnati Research Professor Chuck Doarn says look for virtual visits to increase if Ohio and other states allow doctors to do it permanently. He says they’re allowed now because of a loosening of HIPAA's privacy, security and breach notification rules. Also the government has increased medical reimbursements.

Doarn has been showcasing telehealth for years. Even decades ago, he was working with NASA to develop remote medical care for astronauts. But not everyone in the medical field is as familiar as he is with it.

"Our healthcare providers, especially in the era of the coronavirus, are not well educated in the area of telemedicine," says Doarn.

So the UC College of Medicine and College of Nursing are starting a telehealth certificate program this fall