VA Orlando pioneers telehealth technology for its Environmental Health Registry exams - Public Health
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VA Orlando pioneers telehealth technology for its Environmental Health Registry exams

Gulf War Newsletter: Information for Veterans who served in operations desert shield and desert storm and their families
 
Katia Gugucheva , MD

Katia Gugucheva, MD

VA offers Environmental Health Registries for Gulf War Veterans, including the Gulf War Registry and the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry. These registries help Veterans learn about possible long-term health effects of environmental exposures during their military service and include a no-cost health exam. Veterans can receive a registry exam at VA medical centers across the country.

Environmental Health Clinician, Dr. Katia Gugucheva, and her team recognized the demand for Environmental Health Registry exams at the Orlando VA Medical Center (VAMC). In 2010, the Orlando VAMC offered Agent Orange and Gulf War registry exams once a week. Under Dr. Gugucheva, they could offer more exams, and added telehealth services in 2018. The Orlando VAMC now conducts exams four days a week, including exams through telehealth technology, with plans to offer more registry exams through telehealth.

With telehealth technology, the Orlando VAMC offers virtual environmental health registry exams for Veterans in different locations in Central Florida. A Veteran can meet a nurse at a VAMC nearest them and communicate with an Environmental Health Clinician at the Orlando VAMC via computer.

“Telehealth technology makes access to registry exams more convenient and reduces travel times for Veterans, especially for those in rural areas with limited access to large VA health care facilities,” said Dr. Gugucheva.

How it works

A VA telehealth visit begins when the VA Video Connect app sends an e-mail to both the Environmental Health Clinician and the Veteran at their separate VA locations. The email includes a web link. When the clinician and Veteran click the web link, it takes them both into a virtual medical room on the computer. Then they can see each other, hear each other, and start their clinical session. This session is encrypted to ensure that it is secure and private.

A facilitator (usually a nurse) trained on the use of telehealth equipment is present with the Veteran. This allows the Environmental Health Clinician to conduct a complete physical examination using a virtual stethoscope, virtual otoscope, and close examination of any body part through zooming with the camera.

Telehealth availability is growing

The Orlando VAMC is leading the use of telehealth for registry exams. VA plans to make virtual exams increasingly available for more Veterans across the country. Any VA Environmental Health Registry exam is a potential candidate for telehealth services.

VA aims to have 75 percent of providers delivering telehealth services by the end of fiscal year 2019 and 100 percent of providers by the end of fiscal year 2021.

In addition to registry exams, the Orlando VAMC, under the expertise of Dr. Gugucheva, offers other environmental health services, such as providing information on health issues linked to Veterans’ deployments and garrison-related toxic exposures, and can consult with other experts as necessary.

Contact an Environmental Health Coordinator near you to find out about scheduling a registry exam, either onsite or virtual, and to learn about deployment-related exposures.