- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) intends to increase its telehealth and mobile health capabilities in the coming years, according to the VA's budget submission for fiscal year 2016.
In 2014, the federal agency spends $986 million on telehealth in support of veteran medical care and that figure is estimated to increase between 2015 and 2017. The VA's budget in brief estimates that the federal will outlay $1.098 billion in 2015, $1.224 billion in 2016, and $1.372 billion in 2017.
In 2014, the VA provided more than two million consultant using telehealth services, with 45 percent going toward delivering services to veterans in rural areas. The number of veterans receiving telehealth services is expected to increase from 717,000 in 2014 to 1.1 million in 2016. The VA plans to expand its telehealth services to include intensive care, audiology, pathology, radiology, and mental health.
Most significantly, the VA has made telehealth a key component of its strategic goal to engage veterans in their own healthcare, in the form of its Connected Health initiative.
Along with telehealth services and their expansion, Connected Health is slated to received $50.1 million in financial support in the propose VA budget with $4.1 million going toward development:
My HealtheVet will provide health care record data to the Veteran for their download anywhere. Telehealth services will make the home into the preferred place of care for the Veteran. Telehealth store and forward capabilities will allow data transmission to providers for timely assessment outside of clinic hours. Web and Mobile Solutions will continue to make mobile devices and web-based applications available for use by the Veteran and their health care providers on-the-go. Veterans Point of Service will continue to provide information on VA prescriptions and business/benefits management at kiosks. The Innovations program will provide opportunities to pilot new approaches.
In 2015, My HealtheVet is set for a redesign aimed at improving navigation, ease of use, and support for all end-user devices as well as providing users with secure messaging and prescription refill capabilities.
Investment specifically in mHealth applications will receive substantial financial backing moving forward as well. The VA's proposed budget earmarks $20.1 million for mobile applications:
VA has identified two mobile applications that will significantly improve Veterans’ ability to interact with the VA healthcare system and improve their health outcomes. The first application is a Mobile Scheduling application, which will allow Veterans to check on an existing appointment, or schedule a new one, with a smartphone, iPad, or other tablet device. The second application is Mobile Video Visits, which will allow a Veteran to have a secure video medical visit with a VA provider. The application will initially be pilot-tested at five sites; this technology will be especially helpful with the treatment of rural Veterans.
Another significant investment is planned for Veteran Customer Experience (VCE) where the VA intends to spend $181.8 million, including developing mobile applications for veterans to access pertinent health information and services.
The Mobile Applications Program (MAP) will also benefit from an influx of $12.7 million for development and sustainability. "Funds in 2016 will improve Veteran access to VA benefits and healthcare services through self-service technology-enabled interactions. The technology promotes faster access to care as well as access to Patient Generated Data that promotes quality care," the proposed budget states.
More details about the proposed FY 2016 budget are available here.