VA, Air Force forge telehealth partnership for critically ill patients

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Midwest Health Care Network signed a collaborative agreement with the Air Force Medical Operations Agency, to provide five military treatment facilities with access to the VA’s Tele-ICU capabilities, the VA announced this week.

The agreement covers Air Force patients in Las Vegas; Hampton, Virginia; Biloxi, Mississippi; Dayton, Ohio; and Anchorage, Alaska and is available through the VA’s centralized support center in Minneapolis.

The Tele-ICU telehealth program provides electronic access to board-certified doctors and critical care nurses using live audio and video feed, electronic monitoring, chart review and consultations. Officials said the doctors can prescribe medications, order tests and procedures, diagnose and discuss healthcare with patients and family.

Remote, real-time monitoring and tracking of critically ill patients is one of the biggest goals of the project, as VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin hopes to improve care quality and patient outcomes through the tool.

“Tele-ICU is more than just a way of providing remote care,” said Shulkin in a statement. “It improves the quality of care, decreases costs by supporting evidence-based practices and it improves patient outcomes through decreased ventilator days, ventilator-associated pneumonias and reduced lengths of stay.”

The program is part of the 2015 U.S. Department of Defense - VA Health Care Sharing Incentive Fund, which will provide patients in the five locations with the VA’s Tele-ICU tools. It’s the first of what Shulkin hopes is one of many partnerships with the DoD.

Under Shulkin’s leadership, the VA has been steadily working on modernizing the VA and its healthcare. Shulkin has continuously stressed the need for not only public-private partnerships to accomplish this, but also partnerships with other government agencies -- like the DoD.

“Collaborative partnerships, such as this agreement with VA, help us provide the best possible care to our service members, military family members and retirees who receive health care through the Department of Defense,” said Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Dr. David Smith.