VA Increases Telehealth Access Through Partnership with T-Mobile
When any of us must limit access to online information to avoid exceeding our monthly data allotments on our mobile device plans, it can be inconvenient. But when those limitations hamper Veteran access to healthcare, it can become problematic. That’s why the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Information and Technology (OIT) has made it possible for Veterans who are T-Mobile customers to access telehealth resources without having to use data in their personal mobile device plans.
To accomplish this, VA worked with T-Mobile Engineering, the first mobile services provider to engage with VA on this effort, to whitelist (i.e., allow Veterans access to VA resources without using their mobile plan data allotments) on T-Mobile’s network. This means that Veterans and their families with T-Mobile data plans can access VA systems via the public Internet and are not billed for that internet access. It also means that VA patients now have unlimited access to VA Video Connect (VVC), a telehealth application that streams live video sessions between patients and healthcare providers. OIT handles 80,000 minutes of telehealth video each day, connecting Veterans as far away as Guam and the Philippines.
In alignment with VA’s customer service and IT modernization goals, these developments enable VA to increase Veteran access to care, especially for high-demand primary care and mental health telehealth services. They also alleviate the need for Veterans to pay for data during telehealth provider visits, which can last 60 or more minutes per session. This new feature of VA telehealth means Veterans using T-Mobile to access VA telehealth do not bear the burden of paying for connections to telehealth for their health services and removes any cost barrier to them for participating and receiving the VA healthcare they need.
VA will continue to look for ways like this to make telehealth access easier for Veterans, extend access to care, and bring more services to Veterans and clinicians.