How would you feel if, due to poor eye health, you could no longer see your loved ones clearly or perform routine tasks that you’ve been doing your entire life? Many of our nation’s Veterans are, unfortunately, facing this reality.
For Veterans like Earl White, 92, who is functionally deaf and losing his vision due to age-related macular degeneration, having virtual eye care services has made adapting to a different lifestyle a little easier.
White started working virtually with Clinical Resource Hubs (CRH)TeleEye optometrist Dr. Olga Whitman and in-person with certified low-vision therapist Samantha Montgomery to regain his independence in November 2022. After completing an evaluation and testing different devices to find the best fit for his needs, the team introduced a range of low-vision devices to help with seeing, reading and comfort to enhance his quality of life.
Veteran’s desire to stay independent and safe
“It felt like I was actually in the room with Mr. White when I was conducting our video appointments,” said Whitman. “It was amazing, and Mr. White is confident his quality of life will greatly improve with the use of the visual techniques we shared and the low vision devices used.”
This impactful comprehensive care wouldn’t be possible without innovative technology, teamwork among health care programs and White’s desire to stay independent and safe.
These are the stories that inspire the CRH TeleEye Care team’s work. They can support facility-based Blind Rehabilitation programs while increasing direct access to care for Veterans by maximizing technology. They also innovate new approaches to care. This year the team is piloting several new initiatives.
Portable TeleEye/TeleEye Express Pilot
The Portable TeleEye/TeleEye Express Pilot utilizes a compact hand-held retinal camera to maximize access to screening for those with mobility issues or inability to travel (VA Home-Based Primary Care and those in community living centers) and those who simply cannot position their bodies for traditional imaging techniques (spinal cord injuries or back/neck mobility limitations).
The portable camera also provides a solution for Veterans receiving treatment in specialized care units, such as urgent care where timely access to retinal imaging can optimize prompt evaluation of time-sensitive conditions, and near limitless potential to offer screening opportunities at Veteran Outreach events.
TheTeleEye+ Pilot utilizes new technology—a combination retinal camera with tomography—to capture retinal scans as part of the standard imaging process during appointments. When concerning eye findings are identified, this added functionality of a retinal scan allows for immediate triage of these Veterans and reduces or eliminates the need to travel to a clinic to obtain this baseline scan.
TeleEye Virtual Eye Care System (TEVES) Pilot
The nation-wide TeleEye Virtual Eye Care System (TEVES) Pilot allows technicians to capture pre-testing at the Veteran location and send to a virtual doctor. The doctor connects with the Veteran in real-time using audio-visual telehealth and can control medical equipment across the internet to provide better diagnoses, determine necessary treatments, eyeglass prescriptions and answer questions and concerns, all in one visit.
Doctors using this platform can serve Veterans at multiple locations, essentially adding a virtual doctor for Veterans whose closest facility does not have an eye clinic. This platform could also be used to provide gap coverage for facilities experiencing staffing shortages.
The VISN 4 CRH TeleEye program, based in Delaware, works to make vision rehabilitation and services easier for Veterans to access whether from home, a Community-Based Outpatient Clinic or a Community Living Center. Clinical Resource Hubs advance and enhance care at every VA health care network in the U.S. For more on the TeleEye Care program’s services and how it is changing the way Veterans experience care, visit the CRH website.
To read more stories on VA eye care, visit VA News and Information.
This post, A clear vision for the future of Veteran eye care, was originally published by the Veteran's Administration.
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