VHA e-consult program for transgender patients a viable option to improve care

An e-consultation program created by the Veterans Health Administration to improve care for transgender patients is a viable option and complements other offerings within the VHA, according to a study published online this month in Telemedicine and e-Health.

The VHA created the program to see if e-consultations could help providers treating transgender vets. In the first 17 months of the program, more than 300 e-consults were completed for 230 veterans.

When it comes to improving access to specialty care, especially for underserved populations, e-consultations are a viable solution, a study in the Annals of Family Medicine found.

For the VHA's program, consultations were provided through the electronic medical record, which allowed the consultant to see patient notes, lab results, diagnoses and other information. The program allowed providers to ask specialists questions specific to transgender vets, and the answers would be logged in the EMR. Verbal consent from the veteran was required in order to conduct a consultation, the study added.

Most of the questions asked by providers focused on medications, primary care medical comorbidity and screening, and queries about psychotherapy. Usually the consult took about six days.

However, despite the relative success of the program, it was not without its barriers, the authors said. Those challenges included identifying consultants, training them, creating an e-consult template and sharing credentials between facilities.

If funding for the initiative is continued, the study's authors said, then additional outreach about the program will be necessary.

"Future work should examine provider satisfaction with the program, as well as comparing transgender veteran care quality with and without e-consultation," they said.

The VHA's program is just one way the healthcare industry is helping transgender patients. Another example is Oregon Health & Science University, which created a Transgender Health Program, the first of its kind in the United States, designed to make transgender patients feel more welcome.

To learn more:
- check out the study abstract