RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Just getting to a doctor’s appointment can take hours for thousands of veterans with spinal cord injuries. It is why Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Administration Medical Center on Richmond’s Southside is now offering the telehealth program.
“It is a definite time saver,” says Kevin McGovern, a Navy veteran who lives in Short Pump.
He is having a routine appointment with his doctor, pharmacist and therapist without ever leaving his home. Video conferencing helps to bridge the gap. A nurse who has worked with him for eight years is on-site with McGovern for the checkup.
“What we are doing now, live and in person, would probably take me half a day,” McGovern explains his physical and transportation limitations.
“For our patient population, it really is a challenge to come to the center,” adds Dr. Teodoro Castillo, a Rehab and Spinal Cord Physician. “It’s really coordinating the care and bringing the specialty to the home.”
Dr. Castillo says telehealth does not replace in-person visits but is easier for patients when there is no exam required.
The Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Center of Excellence (SCI&D COE) is one of the largest spinal cord centers within the VA. It serves patients in five states and Washington, DC.
Telehealth cuts down on their travels and is suitable when the appointment is a brief one for medical management, like prescription changes, updates on conditions and more.
“Without having to come to the hospital to do stuff, this is really terrific,” says McGovern.
Telehealth first launched in 2011 and has increased over the past two years. It is also being used for patients out of the spinal cord unit, and McGuire hopes to continue to expand the program.