- Introduction: A Top-Level Look at the Future of Federal Medicine
- Military Health System in Time of Transition as Conflicts End
- Army Medicine: Redefining Its Role in the Generation of a Ready and Resilient Force
- Air Force Medicine: Averting an Identity Crisis
- Moving Forward with Reforming the Indian Health Service
- The Clinical Pharmacy Specialist's Growing Provider Role in VA
- Public Health Service Pharmacy: Accelerating Transformation
- Military Pain Management’s Future: Less Invasive, More Data-Driven Techniques
- Navy Medicine: Strong, Agile and Ready
- Telemental Health in VA: A New Source of Support for Veterans
Value to Patients
I cannot overemphasize the value telemental health offers to our veterans by giving them access to mental-health services closer to home, decreasing inconvenience and removing barriers to care such as driving long distances or through high-stress city traffic.
In many cases, telemental health allows veterans to be seen faster at a remote site than if they were required to travel to the clinician’s location. In these cases, clinical interventions can often prevent a decline in their condition. A slight note of caution however: about 10% of veterans prefer to have face-to-face mental-health services and not telemental health. Our policy in introducing telehealth has been to make it a choice for veterans and always offer them traditional alternatives.
Telemental health also provides value to veterans by increasing the continuity of care across our treatment teams. Through telemental health, veterans’ care can be more integrated with their primary care PACT teams. This is because they can “see” their mental-health clinicians at the same community-based outpatient clinic where they see their primary-care clinicians.
Veterans with mental-health conditions often have other healthcare needs; they may have diabetes, heart disease or a problem with their weight. With telehealth, all the team members are connected: the veteran, our medical clinicians and our mental-health clinicians. In this way, recommendations for all aspects of a veteran’s care are integrated, allowing us to provide holistic care personalized to the individual.
Additionally, telemental health provides the veterans we see with access to various VA specialists without having to travel across the country to see them. While most veterans can be treated by our local clinicians, complex and challenging cases can be handled with assistance from our psychiatrists and other mental-health clinicians who have a particular expertise — even if these specialists are located far from the veterans’ home facility.
Value to VHA
VA is making the strongest commitment to meet the mental-health access needs of veterans, with telemental health as an increasing component of this mission.
Telemental health makes VA services more efficient by eliminating avoidable travel and enabling us to meet staffing challenges. With technology, we can extend our services into areas where it is challenging to recruit mental-health professionals. This allows us to ensure continuity of care with remote clinicians, even if we are experiencing temporary staffing fluctuations here at VA.
In supporting this continuum of care, we are exploring additional applications of telemental health. It can be used in emergency departments and inpatient units to provide Veterans with access to mental-health clinicians when they are not immediately available on site. In addition, when a veteran moves from inpatient to outpatient to residential treatment settings, telehealth allows our treatment teams in each of these setting to remain connected and “on the same page” with regard to the patient’s care needs.