By Collin Brooks
Even in health care, there is an app for that.
The use of technology in the healthcare field is not only advancing their methods, but it is also making it easier for people to receive health care, no matter their location.
The Veteran Affairs hospitals have been in the forefront when it comes to the new Telehealth or Telemedicine craze, which gets quality healthcare to Veterans across the country whether they live in rural areas of metropolitan cities. Telehealth allows patients to have doctors appointments without going to the doctor by using a phone or a webcam.
“We expect the best service, regardless of where you are. It’s not going to be bound by, at least by a physical location,” Audiology Telehealth Coordinator for the VA Dr. Chad Gladden said. “So that has been a really big focus. We are doing what we do in a face-to-face encounter, as well if not better, in a virtual visit.
“Regardless of where anyone shows up, they should expect the same quality of care they receive, regardless of where they are.”
A more advanced video conferencing setup, allows patients to receive care as a test is completed virtually, sometimes having images sent to the patient, so that they are able to have their hearing tested without having to leave their location.
The VA has been able to lead the forefront, because of certain requirements that are a bit relaxed on them.
“That has allowed the VA to sort of press audiology forward, so that has been a huge driver,” Gladden said. “Otherwise, they would not be available or as mainstream as they are now.”
Dr. Faith Akin, Director of AVREAP at the Mountain Home VA, said that the field of audiology is a leader in the VA when it comes to Telehealth as they had 30,000 encounters over the past year.
“It’s hard for Veterans that live in remote areas and we are a good example of that,” Akin said. “With a lot of veterans that live in more rural areas, if we can increase the access to health care, it would be a good thing.”
Gladden gave the opening presentation during the 24th annual Appalachian Spring Conference hosted by the Auditory Vestibular Research Enhancement Award Program (AVREAP) on the campus of the Mountain Home VAMC. The topic for this year’s seminar was Telehealth, which is changing the way that Veterans and eventually the public receive medical care.
Those advancements are due in part to the rapid evolution of the smart phone and the different phone apps that are rapidly changing how patients access health resources and informations that are available to them. That means healthcare is moving to a virtual care delivery system in order to provide top notch care that goes beyond the hospital and clinics and moves into the day-to-day lives of the patients.
Last year alone, 12 percent of Veterans who receive VHA care participated in some type of Telehealth service yearly. Also nice for the Veterans and their families is that the Telehealth spectrum helps save costs for the patient, in that they don’t have to travel a great distance in order to be provided with the same level of care. It also allows a caregiver to not make special arraignments for a long trip.
When it comes to audiology specifically, it helps to compensate for the shortage of trained health care professionals and specialized facilities in rural areas where hearing health services would otherwise be unavailable to the majority of the rural population.
Gladden pushed through the ranks in the VA and has an understanding of the need for rural healthcare, having grown up in North Dakota.
“It was a way for me to kind of get back to my grassroots and where I can see a need,” Gladden said.
Gladden said that using Telehealth reduces the inconvenience and costs related to medical travel and it increases Veterans’ access to care by enabling remote access to VA hearing and services from the Veteran’s home via smartphone.
The Appalachian Spring Conference has a tradition of presenting internationally-recognized speakers and experts in the fields of audiology, speech-language pathology, physical therapy, hearing science, and neuroscience. This year’s conference will focus on the use of Telehealth for delivery of hearing healthcare, balance rehabilitation, cochlear implant rehabilitation and tinnitus management.