Virtual technology benefits VA, veterans during COVID-19 pandemic

Virtual technology benefits VA, veterans during COVID-19 pandemic

COLUMBIA — Recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced the increased use of virtual health delivery systems by 1,000 percent. At Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital in Columbia, providers have experienced similar increases with VA Video Connect (VVC) appointments.

“VA Video Connect is part of a comprehensive health care model,” said Katie Marienfeld, MD, a primary care physician on Truman VA’s Blue Team. “It aligns very well with our Whole Health approach, which is a way to deliver care that isn’t driven just by lab numbers or a standard disease model. Instead, it is a health journey centered around each individual and what makes sense for that veteran. By incorporating VVC as a health delivery system, we also gain insight into each veteran’s environment. In many ways, it feels very much like a home visit. I feel honored that veterans allow me into their lives and their homes.”

Piloted in 2017 and introduced to veterans across the country in 2018, VA Video Connect allows patients and their caregivers to quickly, easily and securely meet with their provider on any computer, tablet or mobile device with an internet connection.

“The COVID-19 pandemic definitely was the catalyst for our increased use of virtual technologies such as VVC,” Marienfeld said. “However, when the outbreak first began, we already had this great tool in place that allowed us to continue to provide our veterans with personal, quality care. Having this option already in place just shows how the VA is very progressive and at the forefront of health care delivery.”

Marienfeld described how seeing her patients in their own surroundings has helped her to better understand each veteran individually.

“The military memorabilia in the home of one veteran showed how connected he was to his military service in everyday life,” Marienfeld said. “During another visit, I saw how a veteran was still trying to live his life to the fullest even in the middle of a pandemic because I could see that he was at a campsite with his canoe in the background. It’s important to understand that our health is impacted by our environment because it’s part of our life. You don’t always get that perspective from a conversation in an office or from a sheet of paper.”

Marienfeld said that even after the pandemic ends, VVC still will be part of how she delivers health services.

“It has given me new options for how I care for my nursing home patients,” Marienfeld said. “With VVC, I can have family members, as well as the nurse that actually provides daily health services for the veteran online at the same time for critical conversations that impact health-related decisions.”

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