VA, T-Mobile partner as government expands its telehealth efforts
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Mobile phone service provider T-Mobile has announced plans to provide 70,000 lines of wireless service to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in an effort to ensure that every VA location has a connection for telehealth services to veterans.
According to a release issued by the company, military veterans drive "an average of 25 to 50 miles for healthcare visits today." Through its partnership, the VA healthcare system — operating the largest integrated healthcare system in the country — is attempting to create better, more efficient connections between patients and their provider.
The VA operates 1,243 healthcare facilities, including 172 VA medical centers and 1,062 outpatient clinics, across the nation, serving more than 9 million enrolled veterans each year.
"T-Mobile will continue to support and grow its relationship with VA as it works to expand its health care network with more physical locations in rural areas and telehealth services that bring access to care closer to home for hundreds of thousands of veterans," the company said in its statement.
The company is getting paid, though, of course. Per FierceHealthcare, the deal is part of the gigantic U.S. Navy's Spiral 3 Wireless and Telecommunications Services contract, which began Oct. 30, 2017. That contract is worth north of $993 million over five years.
The VA moved toward telehealth services during the early part of 2018 after it finalized a rule to allow providers to treat patients across state lines. This change meant patients in areas underserved by the VA, like Wyoming, could cross state lines for a doctor. All veterans in the state were required to traverse state lines for care.
"The rule came shortly after the administration launched its Anywhere-to-Anywhere initiative designed to give veterans access to telehealth services on their mobile device. The health system plans to double the size of a program that has loaned out thousands of iPads to veterans, providing necessary connectivity for telehealth services," the news site reported.
The move is a big deal for T-Mobile, making the company the VA's primary carrier.
According to a fact sheet posted to the VA’s website, the agency says telehealth "increases access to high-quality healthcare services by using information and telecommunication technologies to provide healthcare services when the patient and practitioner are separated by geographical distance. VA is committed to increasing access to care for veterans, and has placed special emphasis on those in rural and remote locations."
It calls its telehealth effort one of its major "transformational initiatives aimed at ensuring care is convenient, accessible and patient-centered."
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