Telehealth allows VA to reach patients from afar

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – As the number of doctors declines in Western New York, technology is become more and more important not only for procedures, but to see specialists.

Now much of the interaction between doctor and patient doesn’t need to be face-to-face. Some critical parts of the physical exam can be done remotely, which is a technique being employed at the VA Healthcare System in WNY.

Patrick Close is in Olean and has a problem with his sleep. But he doesn’t need to be the same room as the doctor in Buffalo to discuss it.

Close may have sleep apnea. He spoke to Dr. Philippe Jaoude, a sleep medicine specialist at the VA, using the Telehealth System. But it means much more than just an interview.

The patient’s vitals appear in the computer, and the scope also has a video camera so he can see into the patient’s airway. Doctors can also use a stethoscope to listen to the heart and breathing.

Dr. Jaoude said, “It’s the same thing we do in the clinic for a sleep patient.”

Paul Galantowitz, coordinator of the Telehealth System, added, “The VA can’t put a physical site in every city. A lot of our veterans come from rural areas and the problem exists in getting to their doctors for their health care.”

Close will need to undergo a sleep study for a definitive diagnosis. This was his first experience using the Telehealth System, and like most patients, he was satisfied with the results.

“It’s much more convenient, obviously, living so far away from the hospital here,” he said. “I would definitely do this again.”

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