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Black Hills VA Sees Sharp Increase In Telehealth Appointments

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VA Black Hills Healthcare Services
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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is reporting a nearly 1,000% increase in video telehealth appointments over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Veterans in the Black Hills region are benefiting in being able to meet virtually with their doctors. 

The VA Black Hills Healthcare System has itself seen an increased usage of telehealth by nearly 200%. A total of 674 virtual appointments were conducted between March and June. 

                      

Jill Tobin is the Telehealth Nurse Manager for the Black Hills VA. She says video telehealth is especially important in a pandemic, but also useful for providing healthcare to those who live in rural areas. 

“The first time or two, it may seem a little awkward, but we have so many technicians and staff that are there to help the providers and the veterans use it," Tobin says. "So, that would apply to people in the community too, if they have people there that can assist with it. So, it really is easier than one might think, and very rewarding. The feedback from the veterans has been overwhelmingly positive.”

The Black Hills VA is expanding to provide better telehealth access for mental health services such as suicide prevention. 

Doctor Brian Bowers is the acting Chief of Staff for the Black Hills VA. He says virtual mental healthcare is now more important than ever. 

“Our mental health colleagues have really been on the forefront of utilizing technology," says Bowers. "So, they’ve been leaders for us. Teaching our primary care and medical specialties how to follow through.”

The Black Hills VA is working with the national VA to expand access to technology for veterans even further.