The ability for us to connect
to a Veteran wherever they are,
and really whatever the circumstance,
allows us to provide care at a time where it
could really be needed. So for example, following Hurricane
Harvey, when the Houston clinics were very short staffed, we were
able to come in and we were able to use VVC to see patients on
the ground in clinics in Houston. And I saw a patient who
was being treated for an infected foot wound, and he had
been on some antibiotics that hadn’t been working — and
because of the hurricane, hadn’t been able to follow up to tell
his provider that these antibiotics actually weren’t
effective. So, as he was evacuating his house, he found
himself in waist-high flood waters — very dirty waters. And
he noticed that his foot over the course of the next few days
was hurting more and more. And this was particularly concerning
to him because he was a caregiver for his wife who has
advanced metastatic breast cancer. And so he came into the
clinic and they said, Doctor Heyworth is in San Diego, but
come into this room. She would be happy to see you. And at
first, he was a little bit skeptical. He said, “What do you
mean I’m seeing a virtual doctor?” But when he came in, we
both realized that we had a really close and human
connection. And he was able to open up to me about the
struggles that he’d been having with managing the health of his
sick wife — being not very healthy himself, that was a
challenge. And to be able to discuss the challenges that he
faced, and to be able to look at his wound and prescribe a new
course of antibiotics. And to be able to do that all virtually
was a really wonderful experience and speaks to the
power of telehealth to help and assist in the moment of a
disaster or an emergency. And I actually followed up with him
yesterday, a week after I saw him, and he was thrilled to be
able to speak to me. It was like I was speaking to any one
patient in my existing panel who I know personally — who I’ve met
face to face. And I asked him, “How’s your foot feeling?” And
he told me for the first time in weeks he was actually able to
walk on his foot. And he said that the toe that was previously
red and swollen was now much less so. And he was able to get
up and about. He was excited to be able to walk. And his wife
had her first chemotherapy since the storm, and he had been able
to take her to that and felt very good about his ability to
provide that care for her. To be 1,000 miles from this patient
and to feel like I’m in the room with him is a really powerful
experience. And to be honest, it’s not an experience I think I
could have predicted I would feel until the moment of being
on camera with the Veteran in the room. I think once providers
try this technology and when they see the effect it can have.
And for myself, to be able to really retain that emotional
relationship with the patient has been the most meaningful.

Telehealth proves its worth, saving life and limb in the aftermath of hurricane
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