Rural Telehealth


by D. Eiring


VA Black Hills Health Care System consists of two medical centers located at Fort Meade and Hot Springs and nine CBOCs. We serve Veterans in the highly rural areas of Western South Dakota, Northwest Nebraska, Eastern Wyoming, and areas of Montana and North Dakota. This geographic area, which encompasses over 100,000 square miles, can be challenging to our Veterans in terms of travel, time and personal resources. Telehealth naturally lends itself as a way to provide medical attention as well as counseling and education services to our rural Veterans in a very cost effective and efficient manner.

One of our Telehealth goals for Fiscal Year 2010 was to increase Veteran access to our pharmacists in doing medication reconciliation. It also happens that Joint Commission’s National Patient Safety Goal #8 is to accurately and completely reconcile medications across the continuum of care. One of our pharmacists at Fort Meade initiated a program of Telehealth giving the Veterans at our Pierre CBOC the opportunity to speak with a pharmacist over the video units about their medications. Since our official launch in the 1st quarter of FY09, our Pharmacy Telehealth program has steadily increased to the point that we are now seeing about 35% of the Pierre CBOC Veterans for medication reconciliation.

In addition to our Pharmacy program, Black Hills Telehealth now works in our CBOCs with Diet and Nutrition Individually and in Groups, Mental Health visits, PTSD visits, MOVE Individual and Groups, OEF/OIF/OND, and Speech. We are utilizing specialists from the Minneapolis and Omaha facilities to see our Veterans via Telehealth in areas of Oncology, Pulmonologist, Infectious Disease and Orthopedics. In total, we have increased our Telehealth visits over 300% from FY09 to FY10. We are growing and expanding and with this, giving our Western Veterans better access to needed healthcare. Looking to the future, we are adding Cardiology and Neurology to our specialty areas from Omaha and Minneapolis in the upcoming year, as well as increasing in our current specialty areas.


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