How to Save A Life: Telehealth Innovation and the Department of Veterans Affairs
A U.S. soldier has just returned home from deployment. The past years of his life have been structured and strenuous, and he begins to notice that he is having trouble readjusting to the civilian lifestyle. The veteran is plagued with crippling fear and paranoia and struggles to socialize. The isolation leads to feelings of depression, and this struggling victim wonders whether life will ever feel “normal” again.
These are some of the symptoms that come with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a common disease that often affects warfighters after returning home. If not treated, PTSD can often prove dangerous to both the lives of the victims and their loved ones.
Unfortunately, this mental illness brings with it a great deal of difficulty in seeking help. Sufferers often find they are unable to leave their home, ruling out both doctor and therapy appointments. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is working to reverse what could be a dire situation, by bringing healthcare to veterans in need.
The term telehealth is defined as the use of technologies to provide clinical care in circumstances where distance separates those receiving services and those providing them. This means patients can receive the care they require via screens, sensors and the like, all from the comfort of their home.
Recognizing the need for accessibility and ease-of-use within its unique (and often rural) patient population, the VA continues to lead in the adoption and expansion of telehealth offerings. This technology can increase veterans’ well-being, no matter the situation. For those suffering from PTSD, for example, therapy via telehealth could be the difference between life and death by suicide.
But how is telehealth made possible? A level of healthcare that once didn’t even seem imaginable is now becoming the standard – and fast. Telehealth offerings must be supported from an IT standpoint, starting with infrastructure. Cisco technology can improve access to telehealth not only through this infrastructure support, but also by offering mobility solutions to make face-to-face contact between doctor and patient possible.
While the underlying IT infrastructure support and tools are key to making telehealth a continued reality in the VA and beyond, it is also necessary that doctors understand how to use the tools they are given to make telehealth a success. This is why Iron Bow has created the Telehealth Education Delivered vehicle – TED for short.
TED is on a journey across the United States, serving as an educational tool. The vehicle is teaching doctors, nurses and administrators as it showcases technologies that enable telehealth in many clinical areas such as mental health, surgery, wound care, primary care and more. This tool is prompting healthcare professionals to not only recognize the benefits of telehealth but also to show them how to properly leverage the technology and capabilities it provides.
When it comes supporting the VA’s telehealth offerings, the most important thing that we can continue to do is keep the focus on the veterans and their most basic needs. At the end of the day, IT professionals may get distracted by the technical aspects of their job, but it is key to remember that our mission is in improving quality of life.
It’s all about helping people, and we should strive to look at IT from a veteran/caregiver perspective in order to enhance experiences on both ends to provide better access to care and, in turn, a healthy, happy life.