VA San Diego Healthcare System
Telehealth is Changing VA Health Care in San Diego
A Veteran lives in El Centro but needs post-traumatic stress disorder counseling that is not available in that area. A patient living in Alpine with a skin condition needs to be evaluated but doesn’t want to drive to the medical center. A Veteran wants to do a follow up appointment with her primary care provider but doesn’t have time to drive to the closest VA clinic. These access problems are being solved through telemedicine care.
VASDHS started telehealth in San Diego in 2005 with 75 patients in a program called home monitoring for conditions such as diabetes, congestive heart failure and hypertension. From that early beginning, the telehealth program has grown to a system that’s includes video conferencing from one VA facility to another, Video conferencing between a provider and patient in the Veteran’s home and the home monitoring care program which now serves over 700 patients.
Using remote technology, providers can access retinal and dermatological imaging. They can also conduct pharmacist consults for smoking cessation, and lipid and pain management and provide specialty care such as diabetes and spinal cord injury.
“More than 60% of primary care and mental health providers used telehealth in 2019 and we have a goal of 100% for 2020,” said Dr. Shah, director of Telemedicine. “We’d like to get most of our Veterans using telehealth for at least some of their care in the future,” Shah said.
Applications on the horizon include an in-home initial evaluation video appointment for cardiothoracic surgery – since San Diego is a regional center for cardiothoracic surgery, this makes it convenient for Veterans who might otherwise have to drive from Loma Linda or Long Beach for their evaluation. VASDHS is also a Virtual Care Center of Excellence serving as a pilot site to test new telemedicine technologies.
We encourage our patients to ask their providers about telehealth.