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      Health care closer to home

      The VA hospital is bringing health care close to home for veterans with telecommunications. Telehealth is defined as the delivery of health-related services through telecommunication technology. This technology is opening the door of convenience for long-distance health care.

      â??We had patients travel on the bus all the way down from Iron Mountain which is almost a six hour bus ride,â?? says Chris Uecker, a Telehealth Nurse Anesthetist. â??With the conferencing like this, we could do the interview, listen to the heart and lungs, and review the record without them having to travel.â??

      The goal is to connect patients to specialty providers that are separated by long distances.

      â??We can connect a patient that lives here in the U.P. to the specialty doctor that may be located in Milwaukee or Madison,â?? says Telehealth nurse Jeanne Johnson. â??Their visit may take an hour out of their day rather than all day or several days to make that same appointment.â??

      Oscar G. Johnson was one of the first VA hospitals to implement the technology in 1996 and has since expanded, not just technologically, but numerically. The VA had over 6,000 Telehealth appointments conducted in 2011, and the number of patients using Telehealth in the last four years has quadrupled from 662 patients in 2008 to 2,200 in 2012. This year the VAMC had a goal to utilize Telehealth technology for 15 percent of all patients.

      â??Our goal nationwide was to reach 15 percent, and I'm glad to say as of yesterday, we are over 18 percent,â?? Jeanne says.Current Telehealth Services:- Audiology - Behavioral Health (General) - Cardiology - Diabetes - Endocrinology - Infectious Disease- Nephrology - Pre-op Anesthesia - Prosthetics - Psychiatry - PTSD - Pulmonology- Retinal Imaging - Rheumatology - Spinal Cord Injury- Substance Abuse - Thoracic Surgery - Weight Management (Move!)- Post op - Diabetic Education - Pharmacy Yet to come on line:- Primary Care (later 2012)- Comp & Pen (later 2012)

      Telehealth Services are located at the VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain and Community Outpatient Clinics in Sault Ste. Marie, Marquette, Hancock, Ironwood, Menominee, and Rhinelander, WI.