Bill Harding, Veterans Service Officer

Bill Harding, Veterans Service Officer

Bill Harding: VA Data: Home health technology improves access to care

Bill Harding, Veterans Hotline

Bill Harding's "Veterans Hotline" column appears in the Craig Daily Press .

The following was published in the Craig Daily Press newspaper. Permission is granted to use any of this information in support of veterans' interests.

WASHINGTON - Veterans with chronic conditions can manage their health and avoid hospitalization by using special technology provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs in their homes, according to a recent study.

"The study showed that home telehealth makes health care more effective because it improves patients' access to care and is easy to use," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake said. "A real plus is that this approach to care can be sustained because it's so cost-effective and more veteran-centric. Patients in rural areas are increasingly finding that telehealth improves their access to health care and promotes their ongoing relationship with our health care system."

The study found a 25 percent reduction in the average number of days hospitalized and a 19 percent reduction in hospitalizations for patients using home telehealth. The data also show that for some patients, the cost of telehealth services in their homes averaged $1,600 a year - much lower than in-home clinician care costs.

The authors of the study in the current issue of the journal Telemedicine and e-Health are VA national telehealth staff members. The study looked at health outcomes from 17,025 VA home telehealth patients.

VA's home telehealth program cares for 35,000 patients and is the largest of its kind in the world. Clinicians and managers in health care systems, as well as information technology professionals, have been awaiting the results of the telehealth study, said Dr. Adam Darkins, chief consultant in VA's care coordination program, who led the study.

"The results are not really about the technology, but about how using it helps coordinate the full scope of care our patients need," said Darkins. "It permits us to give the right care in the right place at the right time."

VA's Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Michael J. Kussman, said the key to the program's success is VA's computerized patient record system. "Data obtained from the home such as blood pressure and blood glucose, along with other patient information in the electronic system, allows our health care teams to anticipate and prevent avoidable problems," he said.

VA health care officials emphasize that home telehealth does not necessarily replace nursing home care or traditional care but can help veterans understand and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and chronic heart failure. Patients' partnership with the medical team can delay the need for institutional care and maintain independence for an extended time.

Vets with PTSD released for dissemination

In next week's article, I will publish the section of this report for VISN 19, the regional VA Healthcare provider, for western Colorado and this area. It arrived too late to put into this week's article. OEF is the acronym for Operation Enduring Freedom and OIF is Operation Iraqi Freedom, combat ribbon awards for vets serving in those war zones.

Background: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has requested VA to enumerate the total number of OEF/OIF veterans who were diagnosed with PTSD by VISN and VAMC using VA inpatient and outpatient records.

The report is entitled "VA Facility Specific OEF/OIF Veterans Coded with Potential PTSD Through 4th Qt FY 2008." This information is to be aggregated with Vet Center utilization data. VHA prepared an initial report in October 2004 for the health care utilization during FY 2004. This is the sixteenth report to cover the VA health care data for FY2002 through 4th Qt FY 2008. FY means Fiscal Year. Qt is for quarter. VHA stands for Veterans Health Administration.

VA salutes Ross Perot for support of veterans

WASHINGTON - Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake presented business leader and veterans' advocate Ross Perot a special award Jan. 7 for embodying "the very spirit of America" in his selfless support of veterans and the military.

"Few Americans have done as much as Mr. Perot to enhance the lives of our veterans, military personnel, their families and their survivors," Peake said. "In a lifetime of behind-the-scenes service to care for those who have defended our nation, he has redefined the term veterans advocate."

Perot's veterans' advocacy first gained national recognition in 1969, when he focused attention on the brutal treatment of U.S. prisoners of war captured during the Vietnam War.

"I am privileged and honored to receive this award," Perot said. "My contributions are insignificant compared to all the services and sacrifices of our military heroes and their families. They are the guardians at the gate of freedom for all of us."

He quietly has provided financial support to the families of POWs, offered scholarships to the children of soldiers killed in action and funded numerous USO events to entertain the troops. During the past 10 years, he has been a major advocate on behalf of Gulf War veterans.

A 1953 graduate of the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Perot founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS), one of the world's largest technology services firms, in 1962. Twenty-six years later, he founded Perot Systems, another leader in the technology field.

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