Army Veteran Elizabeth Elzey is a resident in the palliative care unit at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center (VAMC), and has been using VA Telehealth Services to video chat with her sons in Arizona.
After speaking with her doctor about her prognosis, Elzey was determined to find a way to reach out to her sons. She spoke with volunteers and social workers who put her in contact with Gabrielle Vaughn, telehealth coordinator at the Martinsburg VAMC.
“When I heard about Ms. Elzey’s request, I knew I had to do my part to help,” said Vaughn. “Telehealth is a great technology that brings providers and Veterans closer together, and in this case we were able to help bring a family together which is very special.”
With help from her telehealth technicians, Vaughn was able to contact the Flagstaff, Arizona Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), which was the closest location to Elzey’s sons. The Flagstaff CBOC has telehealth technology and is part of the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System.
The technicians used the Clinical Video Telehealth system to have secure, two-way communications between Flagstaff and Martinsburg. It is similar to video chat applications on the Internet.
The family was able to video chat a couple times during the past few weeks. “It is like sitting across from the dinner table and having a cup of coffee,” said Elzey. “I believe the terminally ill need their families, and this technology helps those of us who’s families are far away.”
Kelsey Reid, a social work student intern, had another way in which the Martinsburg VAMC could help this dedicated Army Veteran with her last wishes. Elzey wanted to film a farewell video for her family, including grandchildren she hasn’t seen in years. The Public Affairs Office worked with Reid and Elzey to create this personal and endearing video.
“As a social work student at the Martinsburg VAMC, I feel honored to interact with our Veterans,” said Reid. “I met Ms. Elzey on my second day and knew I had to do my best to help her fulfill her dreams.”
Telehealth technology was developed for use in a variety of different clinics throughout the VA health care system. We took this technology and applied it in a new and innovative way allowing us to grant the last wishes of a terminally ill Veteran. That is what patient centered care is all about.