Latino man waits in virtual waiting room on laptop screen; camo print in background

Getting Started: Telehealth for Veterans with Parkinson's

An estimated 80,000 U.S. veterans live with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Researchers believe some events that can happen while serving, such as brain injuries or exposure to chemicals like Agent Orange, may increase the risk of PD. Many veterans, including those with PD, rely on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for medical services. Recently, the VA has expanded their use of telehealth to improve options for veterans.1,2

What is telehealth?

Telehealth is any form of remote medical care given using technology. This technology could be video conferencing, internet chats, phone calls, or more. Telehealth options may be especially useful for people with PD. Symptoms of PD like mobility or walking difficulties can make in-person doctor visits challenging. Telehealth also allows people with health issues to work with specialists who may not live nearby.1

The VA first used telehealth technology in the 1960s. When telehealth first started, providers used televisions to communicate with patients. With the spread of the internet, the VA’s use of telehealth has continued to grow. Over time, policy changes have allowed the VA to increase its options for telehealth.2

Increasing access

In 2018, the VA began to allow telehealth providers to treat people anywhere, regardless of location. This meant people could get care from doctors across state lines. These increased options for veterans caused telehealth to grow. In 2017, the VA reported 700,000 telehealth visits. By 2018, this number jumped to 2.3 million visits.2

In 2020, the COVID pandemic disrupted in-person VA visits. Also, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the VA was awarded $19.6 billion. The VA worked to increase telehealth services to limit the risk of virus transmission from in-person visits. By June 2020, there were 12 times more monthly telehealth visits compared to before the pandemic.2

Options available

The VA provides telehealth visits with a program called VA Video Connect. With this program, you can have a video call visit with your doctor using the camera on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. You and your doctor can work together to schedule appointments. Once an appointment is scheduled, you will get an email with a link you can use to access your appointment. Family members or caregivers can even remotely join in on your visits.3

To use VA telehealth programs, you will need internet access and a connected device. If you need internet service or a device for telehealth, the VA also has programs that may help you. The VA may lend you a device or help you get free internet coverage from a phone provider. Ask your VA provider about your options for technology assistance when you ask about telehealth.4

If you are interested in telehealth, talk to your doctor about your options. Some questions you may want to ask include:5

  • What telehealth services can I use based on my needs and location?
  • How do I start using telehealth?
  • How do I schedule a visit?
  • What technology do I need to start using telehealth?

If you would like more information, consider reaching out to your VA provider or visiting the VA’s website on telehealth services. With today’s technology, there are many options for you to receive medical care from the comfort of your own home.

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