Transforming Telehealth Care of Older Adult Veterans
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committing to integrating telehealth into its standard care practices. In fact, telehealth is already used across the VA to better serve Veterans and increase timely access to providers. Telehealth services consist of video conference visits that are administered through an application called the VA Video Connect (VVC). The VVC app allows for secure, HIPAA compliant video visits with members of a Veteran’s care team, as well as VA specialists located outside of the individual’s care area.
To enable Veterans to connect with care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the VA purchased 80,930 iPads and 10,000 iPhones equipped with the VVC app and data plans. However, there was no targeted approach to identify those who would be best served with this technology. According to the Office of Inspector General report, this resulted in excessive waste that totaled over $2 million in lost money due to unused data plans, in addition to millions spent on equipment that went unused.
The VA is now focused on researching a way to more efficiently allocate their telehealth resources and achieve greater access to care for Veterans. This is where the VVC Match project plays a significant role. Concurrently, it aims to solve a larger and more prolific challenge of utilizing telehealth to deliver care, particularly among populations experiencing barriers to adoption—how to match people accurately and systematically to the right technology?
The VVC Match project is a research project comprised of an interdisciplinary team working to develop and pilot a comprehensive human-technology assessment as a tool to answer the question above. This type of assessment evaluates technology’s ability to meet the needs of patients and gauges patients’ readiness for telehealth visits, while also identifying the necessary support to help patients prepare for a successful telehealth visit. The assessment was developed by Dr. Julie Faieta, a licensed occupational therapist who holds a PhD in Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Her research has focused on digital health design and informed implementation of technology tools to advance healthcare delivery for older adults.