VA will use $983K grant to expand telehealth to vets

The Department of Veterans Affairs continues its efforts to expand access to care for veterans using technology--including telehealth--this time through a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

An agreement between the two agencies promotes collaboration between VA facilities and private hospitals and clinics, according to a joint announcement, and is supported by $983,100 in grants to improve access and coordination of care through telehealth and health information exchanges in rural areas.

Three states with the highest density of veteran residents--Virginia, Montana and Alaska--each will receive approximately $300,000 to implement or upgrade telehealth capabilities for veterans. The grants will be used for telehealth equipment and to develop electronic health records that are compatible with the VA's Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) system.

The VA has been promoting telehealth as a way to not only improve access but also to reduce costs of providing care. Earlier this year it dropped patient co-pays for remote visits in an effort to encourage the program, for example. The agency has said it aims make "the home a preferred place of care," whenever appropriate.

In July, the VA's efforts got another boost when the House introduced the Veterans E-Health & Telemedicine Support Act of 2012 (H.R. 6107) that would remove restrictions that currently prevent VA providers from treating patients using remote technology across state lines.

To learn more:
- see the VA and HHS announcement