With the fight to prevent the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 in full force, veterans and their spouses living in the Veterans Home of California-Ventura (VHC-Ventura) can greatly reduce their risk of exposure, thanks to the Home’s participation in the TeleHealth Program.

A resident speaks with his doctor using the VA interface through Telehealth.

With the doctor live online in his or her office, and the resident doing the same from the Veterans Home, they can converse as if they physically are in the same room. A nurse can monitor the appointment, checking vital signs, doing the bloodwork, and most other routine testing there at the Veterans Home.

“TeleHealth is an extremely valuable tool during this unprecedented time,” said Vito Imbasciani MD, Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet). “It gives our residents the personal, face-to-face contact with their doctors without having to leave the Veterans Home. That, in turn, reduces the risk of exposure to COVID-19.”

CalVet introduced the program at VHC-Ventura last year, with some residents using it on their own. Home staff recently began making the TeleHealth appointments for them, and more than a dozen of the Home’s 60 residents are taking advantage. Staff will also be able to use iPads to connect residents from their own rooms rather than going to an office elsewhere in the facility.

 “VHC-Ventura residents using TeleHealth or telemedicine is surging,” said VHC-Ventura Administrator Julian Bond. “Our home has the capacity and capability to provide information technology support to our residents to virtually connect to clinicians all over Southern California, eliminating hours of travel time in traffic and potential exposure to harmful viruses; this is 20th century veterans utilizing 21st century technology!”

The program should see an uptick in its use as Governor Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order remains in effect, and already is impressing veterans at the Home.

“The COVID-19 crisis has been challenging; however, it pushed me to use the VA TeleHealth program to connect to my doctor from my room,” said resident Vernon. “Talking to my doctor from the safety of my room and avoiding traffic is great. I am going to use this program after the COVID-19 crisis.”

VHC-Ventura officials believe that more than half of the veterans and residents will be using the program. The program has been in place for the past few years at VHC-Yountville, while VHC-Fresno has used it primarily for mental health appointments. VHC-Lancaster will begin using the program next week.

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