As part of a larger Department of Defense contract, wireless carrier T-Mobile will be providing 70,000 lines of wireless service to the Department of Veterans Affairs to increase the availability of telehealth services to veterans, the company announced today.
“Deploying this type of service across all of our locations not only connects VHA staff with the people and data they need, it makes them more accessible to our veterans as well,” Dr. Steven Lieberman, executive in charge at the Veterans Health Administration, said in a statement. “Whether it’s at a medical center, a community clinic or via the VA Video Connect telemedicine platform, our ongoing goal is to improve patient outcomes by reaching veterans wherever they are.”
The deal makes T-Mobile the primary wireless provider for the VA. The lines will connect patients at outpatient facilities or at home to a variety of VA personnel including doctors, nurses, social workers, and crisis hotline staff. The deal is part of a five-year $993.5 million contract between the DoD, T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon.
Why it matters
According to T-Mobile's press release, veterans drive an average of 25 to 50 miles for care. The VA has been turning to telehealth for some time to ease that burden. However expanded telehealth services don't mean much without reliable networks to deliver them over. This deal with the VA, which T-Mobile says it plans to expand over time, will help to facilitate those efforts.
What's the trend
In general, the VA has been making telehealth a priority lately. In May of this year, the VA finalized the federal rule allowing providers to deliver patient care across state lines and outside of a VA facility using telemedicine. Earlier this year Dr. Neil Evans, chief officer for the Office of Connected Care in the VHA, told HIMSS Media a little bit about the department's strategy.
"There are certainly compelling use cases for connected technologies to allow us to better take care of patients in rural part of America where distance is a barrier to receiving healthcare,” he said at the time. “The goal is to have increasingly convenient, care but also fully established with the veteran’s care team.”
And T-Mobile isn't the only company the VA has recently announced a contract with. Last week medical communications company Spok Health announced that it inked a deal with Standard Communications to expand its Spok Care Connect messaging service to more VA healthcare systems. And the Wall Street Journal reported last month that the VA is in talks with Apple about creating a PHR for the department.
On the record
“Veterans truly represent the heart and soul of this nation,” John Legere, CEO of T-Mobile, said in a statement. “I can’t think of a greater honor than to help VA expand access to exceptional health care for the men and women who have served our country. I’m incredibly proud to provide the wireless network, devices and support to help VA employees engage with veterans while expanding telehealth and other innovative services.”