Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System
Reaching Rural Veterans Through Clinical Video Telehealth
Every Thursday, Veterans with diabetes attend a Diabetes Education Group at the Ernest Childers VA Outpatient Clinic in Tulsa to help them lower their blood sugar levels and get the disease under control.
Over time, high blood sugar levels can lead to serious health problems such as blindness, heart attacks and strokes. However, health problems associated with diabetes can be prevented by properly managing the disease, physical activity and healthy eating.
Led by Dr. Nicholas Moorad, a VA primary care physician at the Tulsa Clinic, the group helps Veterans understand the disease and how to properly manage it on a day-by-day basis.
“Our number one goal is education, so our Veterans will be in control of their diabetes,” said Moorad. “We want our Veterans to not be afraid to adjust their insulin and know how to deal with it when their sugar drops.”
While Veterans in Tulsa listen and interact with Dr. Moorad face-to-face, another group of diabetic Veterans also attends the same group at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center in Muskogee through a secure video teleconferencing system, which is part of VA’s Clinical Video Telehealth initiative.
The video teleconferencing system displays each group on separate television screens and microphones allow each site to interact with each other with clear audio. Throughout the group, VA staff ask questions to Veterans at both locations and have them read handouts.
Coast Guard Veteran Charles Battenfield, who lives near Bristow, Okla., attended his first Diabetes Education Group on Dec. 6 at the Muskogee hospital and said he enjoyed the convenience of telehealth.
“I think it’s a great thing that we can sit in one place and interact with someone who is helpful to us and not have to drive to them,” said Battenfield.
While he said Muskogee is a few more miles to drive, he prefers the drive to Muskogee than to Tulsa.
“They say Tulsa is a little closer to my house, but it’s a more pleasant drive to Muskogee,” he said. “There’s not near as much traffic on the road.”
Reducing barriers to access such as travel is one of the goals of the Clinical Video Telehealth initiative, which seeks to increase access to health services for Veterans.
Opal McCoy, a JCMVAMC Licensed Practical Nurse and Telehealth Technician, said the group is doing just that.
“With telehealth, more patients can be seen and they can see a specialist more immediately because they don’t have to drive the longer distances,” said McCoy. “We’re seeing great success with this and that’s the most important thing.”
In Fiscal Year 2012, JCMVAMC connected 587 Veterans with specialists using Clinical Video Telehealth. Along with the Diabetes Education group, JCMVAMC also uses the secure system for the MOVE! Support Group and individual Genomics and Mental Health consults.