Portions of this article originally included in the 2019 OIT Year in Review
September is Suicide Prevention Month. As part of VA’s continued focus on preventing Veteran suicide, the use of technology solutions to fight the battle is important. The Office of Information and Technology (OIT) partnered with the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Telehealth Program in Wichita, Kansas. Together, OIT and VHA piloted a new high-touch, high-tech way to help Veterans in distress: a VA Video Connect face-to-face video consult specializing in mental health.
Ms. Lyn Dickerson, Solution Delivery Endpoint Engineering, said of the partnership, “To properly serve those at risk for suicide, we need collaboration, innovation, and the ability to offer them a personal connection more than ever.”
The video capabilities build on VA’s Telehealth Suicide Prevention Program, which uses home telehealth data to monitor and respond to Veterans in mental or emotional distress. Since many of those at highest risk for suicide receive inpatient mental health care, they were enrolled in the three-month telehealth monitoring program prior to discharge. In addition to receiving home telehealth monitoring devices, if a Veteran didn’t have a mobile device of their own, VA loaned them an iPad. This allows VA health care providers to maintain an even stronger and more personal face-to-face connection. The iPads also offer Veterans another point of access to reach VA health care providers as well as the mobility to connect to providers no matter where they are.
“We know that the risk of suicide is highest during that first week following discharge from inpatient care, so we enroll them in the telehealth program before they leave facilities. Being able to offer Veterans this face-to-face video telehealth connection capability is a tremendous benefit,” said Ms. Melicia Jordan-Yette, Telehealth Program Manager for VHA’s Home Telehealth and Telemedicine service offerings.
Health care providers believe that the video capabilities are making a difference. Ms. Jordan-Yette said, “Our providers report that face-to-face video connection is very impactful for Veterans. They need a personal connection in a time of crisis, and now, thanks to our partnership with OIT, we are deploying and refining enhanced tools to help them.”
Simple acts of support can make a real difference to someone going through a difficult time.
Suicide is preventable! OIT will continue to work with our partners in VHA to look for ways to use technology to prevent Veteran suicide.
Our commitment to digital and IT transformation is shaped by daily dedication to customer service and the close collaboration of our workforce, managers, and leaders. Ready to join us in improving Veterans’ care? Check out all current information and technology career opportunities on DigitalVA. You can also contact VA’s Office of the Chief Human Capital Officer at 512-326-6600, Monday thru Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST or by submitting a resume to VACareers@va.gov.