NaviNet Admin on August 24, 2011

The VA Pioneers: Innovation in Telehealth and HealthIT

There has been a lot of talk about mobile and telemedicine in healthcare lately. So much talk-that we even wrote a blog post delving into the meaning of each term. We know that over 72 percent of physicians use smart phones, and that the number of health apps will triple by 2012. But this buzz leaves us with a bigger question: how will these devices and applications be used to drive down healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes? The Administration of Veterans Affairs has pioneered some innovative approaches that we admire and would like to highlight.

The VA has never hesitated to invest in technology-and their hard work in adoption, deployment and patient engagement since the early 2000s has paid off. From 2001-2007, their implementation of a computerized patient record system was a major contributor to improved benefits and costs savings. Researchers found that the VA realized annual net savings of $500 million during those years. Electronic record keeping helped to eliminate medical errors, lab test redundancies and hospital visits due to better medication adherence.

Therefore, it's no surprise that the organization has already embraced telehealth. Through mobile monitoring devices, patients measure chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. This program, known as Home Telehealth, has served 43,000 vets who would not otherwise be able to live independently. An experienced healthcare professional works at the other end-monitoring symptoms and vital signs-and coordinating medical support for the patient when needed. One person can monitor the progress of 150 patients a day. Thanks to this program the VA has seen a 19% reduction in hospital admissions, and 25% reduction in average hospital stays.

Real-time clinic-based video telehealth enables an estimated 50,000 vets living in rural areas to meet with their physician via video-conferencing appointments. Through these programs, hospital admissions have decreased 25% and average bed days declined 24%.

Most recently, the VA released its first mHealth application, which provides patients experiencing PTSD resources and support. So far, the application has been downloaded 11,000 times and has received perfect customer review scores in the iTunes store. We look forward to monitoring the success of this app-and the services that it provides to those who need it.

Overall-we believe that the VA's work has both impacted the patients they serve, and has been a leading example for the Health IT community. Their leadership in driving patient engagement and cost reduction through technology reminds us that systematic change is possible-even in this complex industry. We are always following innovators in healthcare-tell us your favorite innovators on our blog, on Twitter, on Facebook or on LinkedIn.

Tags: Healthcare IT

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