Telemedicine Benefits for Military and Veterans
Telemedicine for Military Communities
Telemedicine is the use of technology to communicate about health, often without having to leave home or visit a healthcare facility. The words telemedicine, telehealth, and virtual medicine are often used interchangeably.
Telemedicine protects patients and healthcare providers by limiting person-to-person contact. When you can’t meet with your healthcare team in person, telemedicine offers a safe alternative.
Telemedicine has existed for nearly 50 years and began to take shape with the widespread use of the telephone. Some examples of telemedicine include:
- Secure information sharing allows healthcare providers to share sensitive patient information like lab results, x-ray images, or health records to other members of the healthcare team in a way that protects patient confidentiality.
- Remote monitoring is a form of telemedicine that allows healthcare providers to monitor health data – such as continuous blood glucose monitoring or cardiac monitoring.
- Electronic prescriptions can be sent directly to pharmacies. This eliminates the need to worry about losing a paper prescription or messy handwriting.
Innovative Telemedicine through the VA
The VA has provided secure telehealth services to veterans through VA Video Connect since early 2018. This is a secure videoconferencing app explicitly designed to connect veterans to their healthcare providers from a computer or smartphone.
Additional VA Telemedicine Innovations
Annie, an app that sends automated text messages, supports Veterans in playing an active role in their own healthcare. Through automated text messages, Annie empowers Veterans, providing them with automated self-care reminders.
“Messages you receive from Annie can include reminders to take your medication, tips for reducing stress, instructions to prepare for your health care appointments, and more. Annie can also send general broadcast messages from your VA medical center or on topics of interest to you,” according to the official site.
MyHealtheVet is a secure website that allows servicemembers, Veterans, their caregivers, and families to play an active role in their healthcare. Your MyHealtheVet account gives you access to your health record, allows you to send secure messages to healthcare providers, refill and track prescriptions, and schedule appointments with the VA.
Using the VA appointments tool through your MyHealtheVet, you can request a telehealth appointment or reschedule an existing appointment as a telehealth appointment.
TRICARE Telemedicine Expansions
TRICARE also encourages the use of telemedicine through secure videoconferencing. You may need authorization or referral for these services. Covered telemedicine services include:
- Office visits
- Preventive health screenings
- Mental health services
Telemedicine services may require secure videoconferencing with audio and video. The cost of phone calls or text messaging is not included in these benefits.
Tips for Telemedicine with Your Healthcare Provider
According to MyHealtheVet, there are several things you can do to have a successful healthcare visit using VA Video Connect.
Be prepared. Videoconferencing requires visual and auditory capabilities. Will you be able to see and hear your healthcare provider? Will they be able to hear and see you?
- Use headphones to improve sound quality.
- Prevent any background noises – Turn your TV and radio off.
- Find a well-lit place and position your camera so your healthcare provider can see you clearly. Holding your smartphone may not provide the best image.
Just like if you were visiting a clinic, be sure you have your health questions and medication list ready for the visit.