MeriTalk: VA Officials See ‘Digital Divide’ as Biggest Remaining Telehealth Obstacle

“After a year of moving IT heaven and earth to enable a huge jump in telehealth services for veterans during the coronavirus pandemic, officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) said March 23 that one of the biggest remaining obstacles to delivering telehealth is a lack of sufficient and/or affordable broadband service in areas where some veterans live.”

“VA’s success in ramping up telehealth services during the pandemic has been well documented, with daily service capacity rising ten-fold by mid-2020, to 35,000 appointments per day and the ability to hold 17,000 concurrent sessions. By February of this year, VA was averaging 45,000 telehealth visits per day, up from just 2,500 per day in March 2020.”

“With firm plans to keep moving forward with telehealth into the post-pandemic era, VA officials said at an event organized by AFCEA Bethesda that a lack of robust broadband infrastructure – along with affordability and service uptake issues among some veterans – represents a big hurdle to further progress.”

“’One of the biggest telehealth challenges is covering the digital divide in rural areas,’ said Jack Galvin, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary, OI&T Information Technology Operations and Services at VA.”

“Dr. Kevin Galpin, Executive Director, Telehealth Services, Office of Connected Care, at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), agreed. ‘The digital divide is by far the number one issue that we are encountering and dealing with,’ he said…”

“Galpin explained that veterans can be directed to the FCC’s Lifeline program to get subsidized broadband service, or that VA can provide veterans with 4G connected tablet devices in order to receive telehealth services. The agency, he said, has purchased more than 100,000 of the devices to distribute to veterans…” Read the full article here.

Source: VA Officials See ‘Digital Divide’ as Biggest Remaining Telehealth Obstacle — By John Curran, March 24, 2021. MeriTalk.

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