By Jonathan Kaupanger
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Midwest Health Care Network and the Air Force Medical Operations Agency announced an agreement that allows Air Force patients at five military facilities to use the VA’s Tele-ICU capabilities. The Tele-ICU support center is located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but will now be used to see patients in Las Vegas, Nevada, Hampton, Virginia, Biloxi, Mississippi, Dayton, Ohio, and Anchorage, Alaska.
Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs David J. Shulkin also sees patients via telehealth.
“Tele-ICU is more than just a way of providing remote care,” he said. “We know it improves the quality of care, decreases costs by supporting evidence-based practices and it improves patient outcomes through decreased ventilator days, ventilator-associated pneumonias and reduced lengths of stay.”
Now these Air Force patients can see the VA’s Tele-ICU licensed physicians and critical care nurses. Technologies used include direct view of the patient through live audio and video feed, electronic monitoring, and chart review and consultations. The doctors are also able to prescribe medications, order tests and make diagnoses and discuss health care with patients and family members.
On Wednesday and Thursday of this week, Shulkin and Kent Hehr, Canada’s Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defense, held talks at VA headquarters to discuss strategic partnerships between the two countries that will help improve benefits and services for vets and their families.
“Expanding partnerships – even beyond our geographic boundaries – will allow us to improve our services to our veterans and their families,” Shulkin said. “This new partnership with a key ally will allow us to share best practices in areas of health care, benefits and other important support programs.
The two-day meeting focused on easing service members’ transition to civilian life, preventing homelessness and mental-health support. VA officials from both countries agreed that the meeting was a good first step toward mutual collaboration and for continued support of veterans and their families.
Also announced this week, changes made to the military sexual trauma (MST) claims processing procedures are having a good impact on MST-related PTSD claims.
In 2002, the VA relaxed evidentiary standards as a step to better serve MST survivors applying for disability compensation for conditions caused by MST. In 2011, when compared to non-MST related claims, there was about a 20-point gap. In 2014, that changed to a difference of less than six points and today, there’s an almost no difference.
Often, sexual trauma isn’t always reported, so the VA started looking for markers or signs that a traumatic event happened. In 2011, the VA started conducting special training for regional office personnel who process these claims. 2012 saw specialized training to medical examiners that now provide input on these cases as well.