inMotion Magazine

November | December 2018 36 VA Telerehabilitation Provides Best Care – Anywhere by Patty Young Honor, Valor, Sacrifice Ten years ago, video conferencing was considered too “New Age” to consider as a possibility when providing a medical appointment. However, video conferencing for patient care began as early as 1959, when clinicians at the University of Nebraska connected with three Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals throughout Nebraska’s rural communities to provide mental health therapy groups. Six decades later, telehealth has expanded into VA’s Amputation System of Care (ASoC) to enhance amputation rehabilitation for veterans with limb loss across the country. More than half of VA’s 25 amputation specialty sites have provided telehealthcare for many years to connect VA providers and veterans with limb loss. Veterans with amputations have unique needs and require access to a prosthetist to fabricate a prosthesis to improve their functional ability. It’s important for the prosthetist to be an active member of the rehabilitation team to promote the best outcome. At times, veterans choose a community prosthetist, so VA uses telehealth to connect the team! VA telehealth amputee clinics are used to perform everything from prosthesis evaluations to follow-up visits. The opportunities for these telehealth services are no longer just from VA facility to VA facility; now, the care is from VA facility to prosthetists’ offices, outside physical therapy clinics and even to veterans’ homes and workplaces. In 2018, partnerships with community prosthetists have been a major focus for the ASoC. Leaders in this area include the VA Medical Centers in Philadelphia, Richmond and Tampa. Community prosthetic partner Tim Rayer of Prosthetics Innovations of Philadelphia says, “VA telehealth to outside prosthetists allows our veteran amputees the benefit of unparalleled access – having a ‘real-time’ video conference that includes the entire amputee clinic team. It allows our prosthetic wearers to enjoy quicker, more comprehensive, collaborative care.” Prosthetist Ben Koch of Orthotic Prosthetic Center, Inc. in Fairfax, Virginia reports, “My experience with the telehealth program (specifically, with the Richmond team) was, in one word, flawless. The set-up was quick and easy and I did it through my phone on the app. The team was super responsive and helped me get our veteran taken care of and on his way really fast. … I couldn’t be more pleased with this use of technology and how it will help the process in the future for the rest of our clients at the VA!” Michael Monteiro, CP, of Powell Prosthetics and Orthotics in Richmond, Virginia, adds, “In coordination with the VA physical therapist and prosthetist, we are utilizing the latest technologies to make veteran prosthetic care more efficient and convenient.” VA provider Dr. Bradley Tucker (on screen) conducting a telehealth visit with veteran Joe Sanphy at Prosthetic Innovations, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania