The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has released its COVID-19 Response Plan, which seeks to implement two zones within all inpatient units, one for dedicated staff and space to care for COVID-19 patients and a second will be a zone for all other care.

WHY IT MATTERS
The primary goal of the operations plan is to protect Veterans and staff from acquiring COVID-19 infection by leveraging technology, communications as well as using dedicated staff and space to care for COVID-19 patients.

Through the plan, the VA will provide most outpatient care for veterans through telehealth services, noting all VAMCs must be prepared to implement a response to COVID-19 outbreaks in their areas, including maintaining care for Veterans without COVID-19 through telehealth services, a “preferred delivery system.”

Telehealth technology was also singled out in the plan as a way to support “mildly ill” COVID-19 patients and to reduce the number of cases entering medical facilities, as well as provide a mechanism to monitor and track patients under care in home quarantine.

According to the VA, for outpatient care, at-home Veterans will be managed through telehealth with the potential use of mobile services, such as the Annie App, a VA service that sends automated text messages to Veterans to help them stay focused on their self-care and assist with follow up.

The VA will also provide “Virtual Triage” and screening via phone, telehealth, secure email messaging, texting or other non-face-to-face communication, and RN’s can also take into consideration whether a VA loaned tablet is needed for continual assessment of care.

In addition, clinical operations other than emergency and inpatient services may also shift to primarily virtual/telehealth modalities depending on need, and the report also noted chaplain services will ensure VA Chaplains are trained in telehealth to provide virtual spiritual care for Veterans via VA Video Connect.

The plan also highlights the fact that readjustment counselors have also been trained and are equipped to provide virtual services via VA Video Connect.

THE LARGER TREND
The VA also recommended visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the latest information about COVID-19.

Telehealth has emerged has a key care technology during the pandemic, with the federal government greatly expanding its accomodations for the delivery of remote and virtual care.

VA in particular has been prioritizing telehealth in a big way since long before the pandemic, and has been seeing record engagement numbers.

ON THE RECORD
“VA has a world-class medical team doing incredible work on the frontlines of this fight,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “We will continue to share best practices and lessons learned with other government agencies and the private health care system as appropriate so we can defeat COVID-19 as a nation.”

Source: VA COVID-19 response plan stresses telehealth, virtual care services