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Martinsburg VA Medical Center

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Martinsburg VA Medical Center Virtual Care

Terry Johnson (left) and Dr. Adam Gold pose for a photograph at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center

Terry Johnson (left) and Dr. Adam Gold meet at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center for a rare in person visit.

By Photo by Martinsburg VA Medical Center Public Affairs
Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Martinsburg VA Medical Center uses Veterans Health Administration (VHA) virtual care modalities to keep Veterans connected to their health care teams while living overseas.

When Terry Johnson saw his doctor at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center (VAMC) recently, he already knew what the outcome would be. Many Veterans have an idea what their overall health is but when you have advanced Type 2 diabetes, there can be uncertainty. Even more surprising is the fact that Johnson had not seen his doctor since his initial visit six months ago.

Johnson is a Vietnam Veteran who spent 14 years in the U.S. Army. After leaving the service he decided to stay in Germany and never considered using Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care. All that changed last year when a friend and fellow Veteran introduced him to VA health care. Johnson enrolled in health care but with no VA medical facilities in Europe to go to, he was unsure if he could take advantage of VA health care while living in Germany. Johnson felt that he would not get the care he needed to control his diabetes.

All that changed about six months ago. Johnson was in the U.S., and visiting with friends in Martinsburg, West Virginia, when he felt he needed care for his diabetes. It was at this appointment that Johnson was referred to Dr. Adam Gold, a clinical pharmacy specialist who treats Veterans with diabetes.

Typical treatment plans for complex problems like advanced Type 2 diabetes would require frequent inpatient visits, sometimes weekly. Gold discussed improvements needed in Johnson’s diabetes management plan and Johnson immediately felt a connection. Gold then suggested that care could be delivered virtually through My HealtheVet and Secure Messaging, in place of the traditional weekly visits.

Johnson started sending his blood sugar readings through Secure Messaging and remarkable improvements began thanks to the use of virtual care modalities offered by VA.

For six months, Johnson communicated his readings and diet through Secure Messaging to Gold. Gold and other members of Johnson’s health care team would then review the readings and make recommendations to medications, exercise and diet.

Following the most recent appointment with Johnson, Gold stated that “Everything is right where we thought it would be.” He said the results reinforce the idea that 100 percent involvement by patients in their treatment plans will improve outcomes. “Using My HealtheVet and Secure Messaging to communicate gave Terry some new survival skills in his fight,” said Gold.

At his visit to the medical center in April, Johnson’s A1C was over eleven. When he arrived for his appointment earlier this week, he was confident he would see a number closer to six. He was right. “Being able to access my entire care team from Germany is a difference maker,” said Johnson. He also stated that having to share his diet and exercise choices has helped him to make better choices. “When I send my weekly Secure Message, it is like going to confession,” he said.

Gold sees additional benefits from the use of virtual care. Care is delivered to Veterans using Secure Messaging in a fraction of the time versus an in person visit. Virtual Care for Veterans also reduces the number of in patient visits, and trips to the emergency department.

Virtual care modalities have made access possible when no access existed for many Veterans. Johnson believes that Gold is a diabetes wizard. The dramatic improvements do support his claim, but the real magic is being connected to a health care team from 4,000 miles away.

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