We recently had the opportunity to speak with Leonard Goldschmidt, M.D., Ph.D, National Director for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Diabetic Teleretinal Screening Program, about the VA’s use of different technologies and how these technologies increase the quality of and access to health care. From smartphone apps that help prevent and diagnose illness to the extensive use of tele-health technologies, VA hospitals are at the forefront of improving patient care through the use of technology.
The VA, which spends more than $500 million a year on research programs, and there are currently has over 50,000 patients nationwide participating in tele-health programs from home. Over 700,000 diabetic patients have had their retinas imaged by retinal cameras since the inception of the program in 2006. Other patients answer questions via web sites, telephone, or smartphone, and use home-based devices such as a stethoscope and blood pressure-equipped peripherals to track their condition on a daily basis. Results are analyzed by nurse practitioners who follow up directly with the patient. This home-based care coordination program has improved patient care at the VA because caregivers have access to more accurate and timely patient status information. Dr. Goldschmidt says, “more timely and better information means that I can treat my patients better,” and right now the VA is gathering the right information.
As long as significant security issues hang over use of “cloud” computing, there’s an overall hesitancy to involve any technology that may compromise the security and privacy of a health record. All patient records, including charts, scanned images, and diagnostic images are stored in an EHR which has been in use since 1999. The VA patient database is “second in size only to that of the IRS and the security of our health records is paramount” according to Dr. Goldschmidt. For this reason all technology solutions must be vetted internally before being deployed as they affect the health care process. The future of VA healthcare seems bright, because there is both internal and public demand for technology solutions that work to improve the health of our nations’ veterans.
The views expressed here are from Dr. Goldschmidt’s and not of the VA’s.