Birmingham, Alabama VA Health Care System
BVAHCS Virtual Care Serve Veterans During Pandemic
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Veterans in northern and central Alabama are using virtual care through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to connect with their providers and safely attend visits from home.
The Birmingham VA Health Care System (BVAHCS) has conducted more than 300,000 virtual appointments since October 2019. And since the pandemic began in March, the growth has been even faster. Overall, virtual visits have increased by more than 425% since fiscal 2019.
Many virtual visits are conducted over VA Video Connect. This video telehealth tool enables Veterans to meet with their care teams using any computer or mobile device with an internet connection. Veterans can also have remote visits via telephone or through videoconferencing tools such as Zoom, FaceTime, and Facebook Messenger.
These virtual visits are filling the gap for Veterans who are staying safely at home. This includes those who receive mental health care from BVAHCS providers. This year, more than 5,000 VA Video Connect appointments have been for mental health care.
“As we near the third anniversary of the launch of VA Video Connect, even during these challenging times, VA has and continues to maintain access to high-quality health care for Veterans,” said Stacy Vasquez, director of the BVAHCS. “As the service becomes more popular, VA remains committed to providing a seamless user experience to ensure that Veterans have access to care where and when they need it.”
Many Veterans also use My HealtheVet to connect with their BVAHCS providers. My HealtheVet is VA’s online patient health platform. It gives Veterans access to their VA health records and tools to refill VA prescriptions and send messages to their VA providers.
Veterans enrolled in the BVAHCS have used My HealtheVet Secure Messaging to send more than 90,000 messages to their providers since the start of fiscal 2020 — a 30% increase over fiscal 2019. These messages enable Veterans to securely send updates on their condition, ask nonurgent health questions, and share information that can help providers make the best decisions for patient care.
Virtual care will continue to be a vital tool for Veterans and VA providers even after the pandemic. Veterans can request to use phone and video appointments when in-person care is not necessary.
Virtual care and telehealth can help Veterans who have long commutes to VA facilities save time and money. Veterans who have difficulties going to VA facilities can also use virtual care to receive care from home.
“Virtual care and telehealth are helping Veterans in Alabama reach the VA care they need every day,” Vasquez said. “We served thousands of Veterans through telehealth before the pandemic. And we hope that even more Veterans will take advantage of this care option after the pandemic.”
To learn more about the BVAHCS’s response to the pandemic, visit our COVID-19 webpage.