One Million Telehealth Visits in 2018! The VA continues to expand its utilization of telehealth. 2018’s numbers are 19% higher than last years.
This number is bound to greatly increase. The new Authority of Health Care Providers to Practice Telehealth rule, published in the Federal Register on October 2nd, 2017, allows for the VA to provide telehealth services directly to veterans’ homes across the country. In addition, the VA launched its new mobile VA Video Connect application, making video sessions easier for veterans. I suspect these recent developments have only begun to show a footprint. Only 105,300 of the million + video visits were conducted using the new mobile application.
Prior to the Authority of Health Care Providers to Practice Telehealth rule, it was not clear if it was legal for a VA patient to receive telemental health treatment while residing in a state where the VA provider was not licensed. Now for VA providers, while providing telehealth services within the scope of their VA employment, can provide telehealth services to their patients regardless of the patient's location in the USA.
Here are the LINK and SUMMARY of the rule: "The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is amending its medical regulations by standardizing the delivery of care by VA health care providers through telehealth. This rule ensures that VA health care providers can offer the same level of care to all beneficiaries, irrespective of the State or location in a State of the VA health care provider or the beneficiary. This final rule achieves important Federal interests by increasing the availability of mental health, specialty, and general clinical care for all beneficiaries."
A study of VA telemental health services between 2006 and 2010 showed a reduction in psychiatric admissions of telemental health patients by 24.2% and a reduction of hospital days by 26.6%. Godleski, Linda & Darkins, Adam & Peters, John. (2012). Outcomes of 98,609 US Department of Veterans Affairs Patients Enrolled in Telemental Health Services, 2006-2010. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). 63. 383-5. 10.1176/appi.ps.201100206.
Another study showed that VA telemental health sessions had a lower no-show rate of 8%-10% when the client had to go to a facility for the telehealth session compared to the average 13.5% no-show rate for traditional same-location sessions. However, the no-show rate was only 2% when the telemental health sessions were conducted at the veterans’ own home locations. Williams, Kathryn & Kern, Shira & Thorp, Steven & Paulus, Martin & Shah, Nilesh & Morland, Leslie & Hauser, Peter. (2015). VISN 22 Evidenced-Based Psychotherapy Telemental Health Center and Regional Pilot.
The VA's experiences and research on telehealth demonstrate its significant impact on those in need of services, especially for those who experience barriers to treatment.
If you would like to work with veterans as a behavioral health professional it is highly advised that you receive specialized training to be competent in this area. Click here to learn about the Clinical Military Counselor Certificate (CMCC) program.