The “digital divide”: That is how the VA describes the situation of the 42% of veterans without reliable—or any—Internet access. The lack of access means they are effectively barred from participating in telehealth and other online services.
With the goal of “digital inclusion,” the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is partnering with a variety of nongovernmental businesses. VHA and T-Mobile, for instance, host the VA Video Connect application, which connects veterans to health care providers on a secure line on all devices with T-Mobile for free.
Walmart, Philips, and Veteran Service Organizations have set up remote clinics for veterans to access telehealth services closer to their home; with those partners, the VHA also lends Internet-connected iPads to veterans who do not have home computers.
Now, the VHA is working with Microsoft and Internet service providers to bring broadband access to rural areas with large populations of veterans.
The initiatives will not only improve access to health care, but also open other avenues. Dr. Kevin Galpin, executive director of VHA Telehealth Services, says, “We really want veterans to have the opportunities that come with being connected. There is lots of value in being able to maintain social relationships, conduct job searches online, and connect with VA. We know limited access is a problem and we’re exploring a multitude of options.”