Veterans everywhere can Stay Connected to VA Health Care anywhere

Veterans struggling with health conditions keeping them from attending medical appointments in person now have options. Thanks to technology, such as the VA Video Connect app, Veterans can virtually meet with their health care providers anywhere at any time using their phones, computers and tablets. For Army Veteran Keith Hertzog, 68, and Marine Veteran Steven Levine, 31, the technology has offered more choices that saved them travel time to and from appointments, but more importantly, helped them to stay on track with their treatment plans.

 “The drive—mostly traffic being a big factor—made it difficult to get to all my appointments. I’d miss some of them due to the commute,” said Hertzog, a Delaware resident who drives to the Cambridge VA Outpatient Clinic for care. “Another important aspect of using the technology is that my wife can now participate with me, and that’s been helpful.”

            For younger Veterans like Levine already accustomed to using technology, the VA Video Connect offers a seamless transition to keeping up with health care appointments when work and other commitments interfere with maintaining an appointment.

“I’m always streaming video and used to FaceTime, so the convenience of being able to meet with my doctors using the technology makes it easier for me to get care in the early morning hours without having to leave the house, or when I’m out of town,” he said.

Maintaining access to their VA care team is essential, but for some Veterans, staying connected in person is not always easy.  The VA Video Connect app provides a visual connection between Veterans and their health care team who can provide treatment virtually. “Veterans are able to talk to and interact with their providers in real time using cameras and microphones built into their phones, tablets and computers,” said Stephen Sigelman, a social worker at the VA Maryland Health Care System who oversees the TeleMental Health Program that relies on the technological advances. The VA Maryland Health Care System, in partnership with the VA Capitol Health Care Network and the Office of Rural Health, is now expanding services to Veterans being treated by other VA medical centers throughout the VA Capital Health Care Network by opening a TeleMental Health Hub. As the newly-created Clinical Resource Hub, the VA Maryland Health Care System will serve as the host site so that all providers, including two psychiatrists, two social workers and one psychologist, will work remotely from all over the country. 

“This expansion began in September with our first site being Washington, D.C.,” said Sigelman. “Veterans dealing with conditions that make it difficult to travel, who don’t have time to attend an in-person appointment, or who just have a few minor questions for their doctors that can be answered over the phone, can now access care over live video.”

“It’s great! I love it,” says Levine. “I can talk to my doctor anywhere, anytime. I can go on vacation and still keep my appointment.”

Hertzog agrees, and both Hertzog and Levine urge other Veterans to give it a try. “At first, I wasn’t sure if I could manage it, but then after I did, I saw how easy it was. It really is like a face-to-face appointment, except that it’s on the phone,” Hertzog said.

What’s not to like when Veterans everywhere can stay connected to their VA health care anywhere.  Veterans who want to use the technology should talk to their VA provider and let them know that they’re interested in VA Video Connect.

— Rosalia Scalia, MA, is public affairs specialist with VA Maryland Health Care System.