U.K. Report Praises U.S. Veteran Health Administration’s Telehealth Program, Asks Why Adoption Remains Slow Across U.S.

A new report out of the U.K is praising the telehealth program sponsored by the U.S. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) — which is the largest telehealth project in the world — while also asking the question of why telehealth hasn’t gained more momentum and adoption across the U.S. healthcare system.

The new report, published by the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), touts the VHA’s telehealth program as a prime example of how telehealth services should be rolled out on such a large scale.  Patients enrolled in the program — most of whom have chronic conditions such as heart failure, COPD, hypertension, diabetes, and post-traumatic stress disorder — receive free telemonitoring equipment and attention from care coordinators who teach them how to manage their own care.

According to a study conducted in 2008, the VHA’s telehealth program reduced hospital bed days by 25% and hospital admissions by 19% for a cohort of 17,000 participating patients.  A full 87% percent of the patients said they liked the program.  Still, the success of the VHA’s program begs the question of why similar telehealth programs haven’t been instituted all across the country.  The VHA actually began it’s program in the late 1990’s, and finalized the program between 2003 and 2007.

The U.K study notes that much of the VHA’s success is attributed to the integration of telehealth data with its electronic health record (EHR) system, and the availability of EHR data to all providers in the VHA system.  “This allows all validated telehealth data to be accessed through the patient record,” the report said. “Whilst this is a large amount of data, physicians find the information immediate and useful for determining patient treatment.”

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