The VA Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a review to assess Veterans Health Administration’s (VHA) virtual primary care response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the use of virtual care by primary care providers and their perceptions of VA Video Connect (VVC) between February 7 and June 16, 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic presented significant challenges to health care delivery worldwide. One strategy initiated by VHA, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation to social distance, included expanding the delivery of primary care via virtual care. In VHA, virtual care has had a long-standing presence as a modality of care. Virtual care options during the pandemic included video conferencing through VVC and third-party applications, such as Skype and FaceTime, as well as telephone appointments. The OIG found face-to-face primary care encounters decreased by 75 percent and virtual encounters increased, with contact by telephone representing 81 percent of all primary care encounters during the review period. Additionally, primary care providers reported via questionnaire that VVC training and support were lacking for veterans, as was technology equipment and internet connectivity. Providers also identified challenging scheduling processes related to virtual appointment scheduling as a concern. The OIG made two recommendations to the Under Secretary for Health related to access, equipment, and VVC application training and support.
Thursday, March 11, 2021
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Submitting OIG-Specific Report Number:
Component, if applicable:
Veterans Health Administration
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