Digital Health Services Brings Teletherapy to Veterans
Technology has changed nearly every aspect of our lives, from ordering dinner via our smartphones to making travel arrangements from our iPads; technology doesn’t miss a beat. With the development of digital health services, we can get our annual check-up without stepping foot into a physician’s office. For veterans, digital health services can help solve barriers to proper health care and necessary therapy services.
Coming to Veterans Where They Are
Thanks to a bipartisan bill, The Veterans E-Health and Telemedicine Support Act (VETS), recently passed through Congress, VA physicians can now meet the needs of thousands more veterans through telehealth services, relieving the strain on a system that is already under constant scrutiny for appointment cancellations and delays.
For veterans that have limited access to healthcare, mobility issues, or unable to travel, remote speech teletherapy gives them access to more choices and options in addition to a wider pool of licensed speech-language pathologists.
Without access to therapy via the internet, veterans often lose out on much-needed rehabilitation from speech, language, and cognitive disorders. The comfort of therapy at home allows veterans to work at their own speed without the worry of travel or triggering symptoms of other disorders such as PTSD.
Soldiers are at a higher risk for severe brain injuries brought on by the battlefield. The risk for stroke is also higher among service men and women. Both brain injuries and stroke generally require long-term care including speech therapy. Unfortunately, soldiers who have suffered a stroke, aphasia, or other brain injuries only receive speech therapy services for a few months after their recovery when ideally, they require long-term therapy.
Insights from remote speech therapy show that veterans with long-term therapy needs are more apt to participate when the speech therapy services are flexible and personalized.
Trailblazers in Telehealth Services
The Department of Veteran Affairs has been using telehealth services since the 1990s but the recent bill would open the doors to more veterans and allow more therapists and physicians to treat patients via teletherapy.
The downside to telehealth is often in the patient themselves and their acceptance of technology playing a major role in their therapy. Luckily, most people and veterans are familiar with smartphones and tablets or iPads and use them for communicating with friends and loved ones far away. It’s this ease of access to technology and method of comparison that most veterans already utilize on a regular basis, thus making it easier for them to adapt to a new way of treatment and speech-language therapy.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs hopes the VETS Act will remove the in-state treatment barriers that VA physicians and therapists are currently restricted to and provide more accessible, better, and cost-effective health care that veterans need. The bill is currently awaiting approval in the Senate before moving on to the president.