Earlier this month, President Barack Obama unveiled his proposed budget for the federal government for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY 15). What’s most exciting about the budget, which weighs in at $3.9 trillion, is its commitment to America’s service men and women, and its focus on providing them the best medical care – via video.
Included in the $3.9 trillion in proposed spending is $65.3 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs in discretionary funding. This funding is intended to help the VA provide healthcare services to veterans and their families. This budget includes multiple line items for health IT-related projects. One of the largest of these initiatives is a telehealth program designed to deliver healthcare services to America’s veterans, where they live.
$567 million (of the proposed budget is) for telehealth programs that include home health monitoring and extending care to Veterans located in remote locations. This funding request level is a $23 million increase over FY 2014 actual spending. This effort builds on the FY 2013 program that provided monitoring devices to 144,000 veterans with high-risk conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
These kinds of telehealth programs are essential for veterans today. With Vietnam War veterans entering the age where they require additional services, and with a reduction in forces expected to reduce the number of soldiers by more than 100,000, the VA will need to provide more healthcare services to an expanding population of veterans. Telehealth can help make each VA doctor more effective by increasing their reach and enabling them to see more veterans in less time. These solutions also can assist in helping veterans combat expensive chronic conditions, and deliver access to more specialized care.
In addition to home telehealth programs, the budget also provides the VA with more than $7 billion for expanding and transforming mental health services for veterans. As we’ve discussed in recent posts, PTSD and other mental health conditions are a significant issue for a large portion of America’s veterans. According to the language in the budget, this funding is intended to, “ensure accessible and patient-centered care, including treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder…”
This funding will allow VA to continue its collaborative efforts with the Departments of Defense (DOD) and Health and Human Services (HHS) on, “improving access to mental health services for veterans, service members, and military families, to help veterans receive timely access to mental health services, including through enhanced partnerships with community providers.”
One of the most effective ways to offer these services to veterans is via telehealth. Many times, veterans simply don’t live near mental health practitioners, or are intimidated by the stigma surrounding mental health to visit one. Telehealth solutions used in telepsychiatry implementations can eliminate both of these challenges and ensure veterans get the care that they need.
Although many experts are speculating that the provisions in this proposed FY 15 budget ensure that the programs and spending it details won’t be approved by Congress, it’s still an important indication of the current administration’s priorities. It’s exciting to see the administration investing heavily in America’s service men and women, and relying heavily on telehealth solutions.