Telemedicine for Veterans - Smart Vision Labs

Honoring our Veterans through Telemedicine

Honoring our Veterans through Telemedicine

Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, remembers all the men and women who died serving our country. It’s a day to reflect on their sacrifices and to honor their memories.

Usually, at the forefront of these observances are the veterans, men and women who have served our country faithfully and have been discharged from duty. They truly understand what it means to be part of the United States Armed Forces. While November 11 has been set aside to honor them, perhaps we should consider honoring them year round with some practical things.

Like healthcare.

Battling for Healthcare Benefits

Most people would agree that keeping our country safe is paramount, yet the people who willing serve our country often find themselves in a different kind of battle when their time in the armed forces ends. If the landscape of healthcare for veterans was a military operation, it’s no wonder that there are so many casualties.

Recent investigations of the Veterans Health Administration have uncovered problems with policies and practices that have resulted in excessively long wait times and secret wait lists at many Veterans Affairs facilities. Sadly, veterans have even died before receiving healthcare. This is no way to honor these people.

While comprehensive changes are promised to overhaul this entire system, there are ways to immediately support our veterans’ right to quality healthcare.

Telemedicine—Right Here, Right Now

Telemedicine is a simple and powerful concept: use technology to connect patients and doctors. Telemedicine breaks down the barriers of time and space, enabling patients to receive on-demand care regardless of geographic locations. The technologies support healthcare in many areas such as mental health, audiology, non-invasive cardio, dermatology, and vision exams.

What does this mean for veterans? Gone are the incredibly long wait times and gone are the “mission impossible” reasons why they cannot see the doctor on their own terms and times. What takes the place of these things is quality healthcare for the men and women who faithfully served our country.

Through the use of the telemedicine platform, health care access can be extended for veterans while creating a viable collaboration between a network of doctors. This technology is already being used and is generating positive results for both patients and doctors. Telemedicine is cost-effective, makes better use of time, and is available to everyone, regardless of mobility issues or geographic locations.

If a veteran needs to consult with a specialist or wants a second opinion, that is more easily accomplished through the telemedicine technology. How about a vision exam? That’s not only possible but is more practical. Ophthalmology and telemedicine are proving to be a perfect fit with on-site devices to collect data from the patient and licensed doctors reviewing this information through cloud-based technology.  The veteran is assured of a thorough and accurate vision exam in a timely manner.

Optical Telemedicine - Smart Vision Labs

Reconnoiter

Veterans are familiar with this term since any military action begins with a preliminary investigation to gather information and to assess strengths and weaknesses. If a veteran were to use this principle to examine telemedicine, the data would include the type of equipment necessary and the ease of operating such equipment.

The telemedicine technology uses devices that are accessible and familiar, like computers, tablets, and smartphones. Veterans can now come to many of the VA’s community-based outpatient clinics and connect to a doctor through these video technologies. They will be helped as they navigate the system and receive care from a physician.

For those veterans who may have mobility issues, are limited by transportation, or live in rural areas, telemedicine can come to them. Without leaving their homes, veterans can use this technology to connect to a doctor for a wide range of medical services. If they need to see a physician to have medication changed or to monitor a current prescription, telemedicine saves them the cost and inconvenience of traveling to the VA facility.

Telemedicine can help veterans win the battle for quality healthcare.

Doctor on Demand, a platform with which people can see doctors through videoconferencing
Doctor On Demand, a platform with which people can see doctors through videoconferencing

 

Telemedicine Specialties

The same things which make telemedicine a convenient and cost-effective service for average citizens make the difference between veterans being able to receive health care or not. Having access to licensed doctors, who may be in a different city or even country, creates a new route to health care. Affordable options, with or without insurance coverage, make the decision to see a doctor a question of health, not of finances.

The virtual communication link telemedicine creates between doctors and patients is a perfect solution to several problems common among our veterans. Skin conditions, mental health concerns, and vision exams are all medical issues which telemedicine is perfectly equipped to handle without sacrificing quality care. Veterans who have difficulty seeing a doctor in person, due to either physical or mental reasons, can now address these issues using telemedicine. Virtual vision tests using a smartphone, uploading images of a skin condition, or being able to talk to a counselor are all ways telemedicine can help veterans have quality health care and quality of life.

Skin Care

Dermatology is one discipline which has found a foothold in the field of telemedicine. Online communication and sending images is an affordable way to alleviate one’s fears about a strange spot on the skin or to find out if a mole needs removal.

Previously, if a veteran had to see a dermatologist, it might have been a day-long affair of coordinating family or friends’ schedules to help them get to the doctor and back safely. But using telemedicine turns that doctor trip into taking and sending a digital picture and filling out an online form with any symptoms. If a prescription is needed, the teledermatology site will connect your medication information to your local pharmacy.

Many common skin conditions and rashes can be cared for just as effectively using telemedicine as they can with an in-person dermatologist. Eczema, psoriasis, and acne are some skin problems which teledermatology is targeting and creating accessible and affordable treatment options. Once such service, FirstDerm, estimates that 70 percent of patients who seek help through their app can be treated with an over-the-counter medication. The remainder is referred to a local dermatologist for further examination. Treating skin conditions through telemedicine apps and sites can eliminate the time and cost associated with an unnecessary doctor visit.

The affordable aspect telemedicine brings cannot be overlooked. Many common skin conditions, while they can reduce the quality of life, are not life-threatening emergencies. People will turn to inexpensive, yet less-effective, ointments and creams from a drug store shelf rather than pay for insurance and out-of-pocket fees associated with visiting a dermatologist. Most telemedicine dermatologist services can be used for less than $100. Some even take certain insurance plans.

Dermatologist On Call, a telemedicine service which connect patients to dermatologists
Dermatologist On Call, a telemedicine service which connect patients to dermatologists

Mental Health

Mental health issues in veterans may have resulted from a combination of their dangerous service while abroad and inadequate care when back home. Two serious disorders which affect veterans’ mental health are Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Substance Use Disorder (SUD). The exact prevalence rates for these vary: between 11 and 30 percent for PTSD. Out of every 10 veterans who suffer from PTSD, at least 2 also have SUD.

Causes of PTSD are not only attributed to experiencing atrocities of war. High stress permeating the day-to-day war environment, the political climate surrounding the war, and high rates of sexual harassment for both men and women contribute to the prevalence of PTSD and other mental health issues. A RAND study on PTSD in veterans found that only 50 percent sought out treatment for their condition. Out of this group, only half found treatment which was merely “minimally adequate.”

Substance abuse is another problem plaguing the veteran community. Certain types of substances, namely alcohol and prescription medication, have high addiction rates in veterans. Studies speculate that there is a link between the insufficient mental health care offered to veterans (citing high rates of PTSD, depression, and suicide) and attempts to treat their condition on their own with self-medication. Other veterans with chronic pain management issues are given strong prescriptions which they then become addicted to.

There are many reasons so many veterans do not seek out treatment for mental health issues. For one, there is still a stigma associated with having a mental health disorder or seeking help for addiction. Veterans who were once strong in defending their country may be hesitant to admit what seems like “defeat.” Many soldiers also come from rural areas without a nearby VA medical facility.  Others may choose not to go to a doctor in a VA setting because of long waits or perceived lack of quality care.

Telemedicine offers a way to connect qualified mental health professionals with the veterans who need one. In a few ways, seeking mental health care through telemedicine is turning out to be an effective method of treatment. Both PTSD and SUD need to be met with consistent, recurring treatment sessions. The accessibility of videoconferencing with a doctor through an app versus driving to their office makes it far more likely the patient will show up for their “appointment.”

telemedicine breakthrough
Breakthrough, a telehealth platform for mental health

Vision Care

Another area where veteran-specific healthcare needs support is eye and vision care. As with mental health services, many veterans are either reluctant or unable to receive vision care from their local VA. If they can even access it. Other veterans are physically incapable of waiting long times for treatment from the VA or don’t qualify for care. Veterans who do meet the VA’s requirements for care may not meet the threshold for 100 percent of it to be paid for. Cost should not be a concern when health and quality of life is on the line, especially for a veteran who may have gotten their vision problems during their time of service.

Telemedicine for vision care has been growing and establishing itself as a changing force in the eye care industry. Average consumers have had access to smartphone-based vision tests allowing them the option to update their eyeglass or contact lens prescription without making an appointment at the eye doctor. This allows the consumer to have more control over their purchase, which responds to some veterans’ worry that their local VA doesn’t have adequate resources. These veterans are so frustrated with the system currently that they decide to seek out healthcare on their own for higher quality. Telemedicine for vision offers to meet these needs.

Not only does the patient get to select their own healthcare provider, they don’t have to leave their home or wait in a busy waiting room to receive care. Depending on their level of mobility, they can visit a local optical store hosting a Smart Vision exam or have someone meet them in their home with a portable vision test. Their results are sent to and interpreted by licensed optometrists who can write a prescription, if needed. They can then order contact lenses or glasses from an online distributor and test frames out using their webcam or by uploading a digital photo.

Telemedicine technology creates a way to honor our veterans by listening to and responding to their healthcare needs. Connecting doctors with patients using mobile apps and videoconferencing answers veterans’ needs for accessibility. Treatment options which are affordable, even without insurance, relieve their financial burden. Fields of medicine which cater to veterans’ problems in mental health, dermatology, and vision care improve their quality of life.

Yes, veterans like to be honored with parades, but when it comes down to day-to-day living, let’s give them better healthcare options.

Smart Vision Labs Eye Care Telemedicine Solutions

 

Related Readings

What Your Customers Want to See In Your Optical Store
Can Telemedicine Replace Your Eye Doctor
Telemedicine Myths and the Truths Behind Them
What is Telemedicine? What Effect Will It Have on the Care of Your Eyes?

Download your free e-book, How Optical Stores Can Profit from the Telemedicine Revolution.”