WASHINGTON — The VA is expanding remote management of patients to improve disease prevention and care. Those techniques including everything from online patient portals, e-mails between patients and providers, follow-up phone calls, and home health devices to monitor health status.

A new study published in Telemedicine Journal and E-Health raises a novel question, however. How receptive are veteran patients to that type of care delivery.1

A team led by researchers from George Washington University and VA New York Harbor Healthcare System noted that “little is known about patients’ attitudes and preferences for this type of care,” and said they conducted a qualitative study “to better understand patient preferences for receiving remote care.”

To accomplish that, the study team organized 10 involving 77 patients with hypertension or tobacco use history at two VAMCs. Participants were asked about their experiences with current VA remote management efforts and preferences for receiving additional care between outpatient visits.

In general, participants were open to remote management for referrals, appointment reminders, resource information, and motivational and emotional support between visits. They described some challenges, however, with the technological tools. Remote management should be better personalized and customized to individual patient needs, they suggested.

Another issue addressed related to frequency, scope, continuity of provider, and mode of communication between visits. A wide range of opinions were recorded, although Most participants were receptive to non-clinicians contacting them, as long as that person had a direct connection to their medical team. Other participants said they preferred communicating only with licensed medical professionals.

Confidentiality and privacy of healthcare information was a hot button in all of the focus groups, the researchers pointed out.

Female veterans, meanwhile, called for more gender-sensitive care and said they’d like to see expansion of complementary and alternative medicine options.

“The findings and specific recommendations from this study can improve existing remote management programs and inform the design of future efforts,” study authors emphasized.

1Sedlander E, Barboza KC, Jensen A, Skursky N, Bennett K, Sherman S, Schwartz M. Veterans’ Preferences for Remote Management of Chronic Conditions. Telemed J E Health. 2018 Mar;24(3):229-235. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2017.0010. Epub 2017 Jul 26. PubMed PMID: 28745941.