VHA TELEHEALTH PROGRAM
During the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of 1,300 health care and technology experts within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continuously went above the call of duty to deliver support for VA care teams in addition to ensuring the delivery of high-quality, rapid health care options to the six million Veterans who rely on VA. These individuals are the VA Telehealth Coordinators, and they are the frontline health care workers who made continuity of care a success this past year.
Telehealth technology is instrumental in bridging the digital divide and providing nationwide coverage for Veterans. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, facility and clinical Telehealth Coordinators were primarily responsible for championing telehealth adoption and facilitating clinical and home telehealth implementation for Veterans.These responsibilities constituted more than a full-time job for many Coordinators, but at the beginning of the pandemic, these Coordinators worked around the clock (many of them remotely) to diligently promote, educate, and expand telehealth usage at every single facility.
Throughout the pandemic, VA Telehealth Coordinators have sought to provide an essential human connection, regardless of whether Veterans are at home or in an inpatient unit. While Telehealth Coordinators have called Veterans at home every day to check in on them, there have been high-risk patients who were immediately disconnected from their families and friends. There are many examples of Telehealth Coordinators going above and beyond to reconnect Veterans with their loved ones for anniversaries, holidays, and special events. At the Hudllson Vaey VA Medical Center, a Coordinator threw a virtual birthday party for a Veteran and used the available telehealth technology to connect him with his family. VA Telehealth Coordinators continue to find ways to connect Veterans and VA care teams, and occasionally family members, regardless of the situation.
In the fiscal year 2020, more than 1.6 million Veterans were served, and in the fiscal year 2021, more than 1.4 million Veterans have already received telehealthcare. The surge in demand for telehealth has required Telehealth Coordinators to undertake an unprecedented telehealth integration effort that necessitates continuous surge support enterprise-wide.
These employees are unsung heroes of 2020--and beyond.