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Telehealth: An option for Environmental Health Registry Exams

Military Exposures & Your Health: Information for Veterans who servedthe gulf war era and their families
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Environmental Health Registry exams have traditionally been available in person at VA Medical Centers across the country. Registry health exams have also been available through telemedicine in certain locations, such as the VA Puget Sound VA Health Care System and the Orlando VA Medical Center. After the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began, more offices began offering registry exams through telemedicine.

Terin Bickford, Environmental Health Coordinator at the Portland VA Medical Center, explained that her office began to offer remote exams during the pandemic. “In light of the uncertainty around in-person appointments in the time of COVID-19 and social distancing, the Portland Environmental Health Registry Program wanted to ensure that Veterans still had access to registry exams to evaluate possible environmental exposures during their military service,” said Bickford.

The Portland VA Medical Center arranged for Veterans to be able to have Environmental Health Registry exams remotely via VA Video Connect (VVC), said Bickford. Bickford’s office secured cameras for providers, offered training on the equipment, shared best practices for providers in video telehealth, and set up VVC clinic space.

“Our process for scheduling registry exams is the same, but now, prior to the visit, we send a link the Veteran can use on his or her smart phone or home computer,” said Bickford. “Occasionally, we have technical issues, but they’ve been easily overcome, and we’ve found Veterans very willing to use technology to connect with us in a way that doesn’t jeopardize their health and well-being,” she said.

During VVC exams, providers evaluate Veterans in a similar way to in-person exams and use information from their most recent primary care visit for information that can’t be obtained from video, such as weight and blood pressure, Bickford explained.

Many VA Medical Centers are now offering telemedicine for Environmental Health Registry exams and plan to continue offering it in the future. If you are interested in having an Environmental Health Registry exam through telemedicine, please contact your local Environmental Health Coordinator and ask if it is an option.

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