The Department of Veterans Affairs continues to develop, innovate, and scale its mobile health initiatives according to a new report published in the Washington Post.
The bulk of the Post's report focuses on Give an Hour, a nonprofit that connects veterans with free mental health sessions offered by volunteer professionals. The app uses telehealth to facilitate these sessions: it previously partnered with Google Helpouts, but as Helpouts phases out its service, owing to lack of adoption, Give an Hour is looking to video visits provider Doctor on Demand to power its services.
But the VA also gave the Post some updates on its in-house mobile health projects, such as the VA's family caregiver pilot, which has now been expanded into a full app store for veterans and their families. While the program originally included 10 apps, the store now boasts 17 health and wellness apps, although not all of those are actually mobile-enabled yet; some are still desktop apps.
The VA distributed more than 10,000 tablets to clinicians when the app store launched last year, and has seen 300,000 downloads of the apps since launch. In addition, nearly half of veterans undergoing prolonged exposure therapy for post-traumatic stress syndrome use the PE Coach app designed for that purpose.
Many of the VA apps that are currently released for mobile are care resources that don't need to be connected to Veterans' electronic health record. But the three mobile apps that the VA is set to launch later this year -- Launchpad, Summary of Care, and Mobile Blue Button -- will all allow users to access their records in the EHR. A fourth, an under-development app called MyVAHealth, will allow users to upload data into their health record, to be accessed by their doctors.
In addition to the app store, which the VA created with the help of a $9.3 million contract with Longview International Technology Solutions, a large part of the VA's Connected Health initiative is telehealth. According to data released by the VA in October, 690,000 US veterans received care in the 2014 fiscal year via telehealth, with 2 million telehealth visits scheduled. That means that 12 percent of all veterans enrolled in VA programs received telehealth care of some kind in 2014.
Last fall, the VA made another announcement in the digital health space. The department said that they would soon begin reimbursing its doctors for certain clinical-grade activity trackers used for rehabilitating veterans with prosthetic limbs. The change the VA made is to introduce a new mandatory template for providers to use when negotiating contracts with the vendors that sell prosthetic limbs and custom orthotics for injured veterans.