The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has a robust telehealth program supported by a training infrastructure for VA clinicians and staff. In fiscal 2019, over 909,000 VA patients received a portion of their VA care through telehealth, and over 60% of VA’s primary and mental health care providers participated in one or more Clinical Video Telehealth (CVT) appointments to a patient’s home.
In March 2020, during the initial spread of COVID-19, Veterans Health Administration leadership issued guidance for providers to transition from in-person care to virtual modalities for routine care not requiring a physical encounter. VA’s comprehensive training infrastructure helped providers quickly become capable of delivering CVT care to meet the needs of their patients, and the VA Office of Connected Care Quality and Training (QT) Division adjusted the program as providers’ needs evolved.
As clinical staff faced new and increasing demands to respond to needs during the pandemic, the QT Division streamlined existing training programs to deliver essential content and enable providers to acquire necessary telehealth skills more quickly. This included reducing the number of core courses required to become telehealth-capable from four to two by introducing an integrated course. The QT Division reorganized and edited content from other accredited courses to convey key topics. To shorten courses for providers with full schedules, the QT Division removed accreditation from some courses, such as the COVID-19 VA Video Connect for Providers course.
The QT Division’s pandemic response resulted in over 80,000 new course completions in the first month and over 20% more primary care and mental health providers conducting CVT visits in the first five months. During this period, the number of CVT appointments increased by over 1,000%.
VA’s telehealth training infrastructure, implemented by the QT Division, enabled VA to enter the COVID-19 public health emergency fully prepared for the rapid growth in telehealth care. As CVT became increasingly important during the COVID-19 response, the QT Division made necessary curriculum adjustments to meet provider and patient needs.