UPDATE: Due to mechanical issues, the "TED" truck will not be making its expected stop in Missoula on Friday June 8th. It will still be making its scheduled stops in Fort Harrison June 11th and Billings June 12th.
The Montana Veterans health care system is encouraging vets to try out telehealth services. This week and early next week it’s sending a special truck to three locations to demonstrate what’s possible.
Telehealth is healthcare provided remotely to patients using technology like computers and phones. Vets in Montana and across the country can and do get care using their home computers and personal phones, but not everyone knows how.
Clare Evenson is a registered nurse and a care coordinator for home telehealth with the Montana VA.
"It can be kind of scary for people thinking that some healthcare might be through technology," says Evenson. "But I think once patients come and they see what the technology is about and how it works, it will help with their comfort levels."
So the VA will be parking a Telehealth Education Delivery, or “TED” truck in Missoula June 8th, at Fort Harrison June 11th and Billings on June 12th to show what telehealth looks like in action.
Evenson says Veterans and their families, as well as VA staff, can visit the truck durings its scheduled stops.
"And they can see from both ends what it looks like," says Evenson. "And when I say both ends, they can see from the patient’s side what it looks like to do telehealth, but then they can also see what the doctor sees from their end."
Evenson says visitors to the truck can learn how to use technology to help them get the healthcare they need right from home. Vets can use telehealth to get services like primary care as well as specialties like mental health, wound care, cardiology and dermatology.
The Montana VA is trying to increase awareness of how telehealth can bring healthcare services to remote and hard to reach places across the state, saving vets an unnecessary commute for a doctor’s appointment.
Specialty healthcare in particular can often be difficult to access at existing VA healthcare locations in Montana.
"Montana has a lot of challenges. It’s such a vast state, you know, for veterans to travel for care," says Evenson.
Telehealth technology is already being used by nearly 20 percent of Montana’s 37,000 VA healthcare users.
The TED truck will be at the VA clinic sites in Missoula June 8th, Fort Harrison June 11th and Billings June 12th from 10am to 2pm . You can view the truck's complete schedule here.