VA NY Harbor Healthcare System
VA NY Harbor Continues to Care for Veterans through Telehealth
July 8, 2020
NEW YORK — Veterans receiving treatment at VA New York Harbor’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic can feel confident that their health care providers continue to be here for them.
The clinic innovated a variety of treatment options during the worst of the pandemic, taking new referrals, providing for existing patients through telehealth options and working the phones – transitioning group meetings for Vietnam Veterans to conference calls.
“Some Veterans we work with decided they cannot engage in telehealth for a variety of reasons, so we’ve figured out how to keep helping them. With respect to new patients, our consult, screening and assessment procedures remain unchanged,” according to Dr. Nishant Patel, director of the PTSD clinic at Harbor.
While some patients may look forward to coming in person, Patel said the convenience of using telehealth appealed to a great number of Veterans, and believes many will continue choosing that option. Overall, VA saw a 1,000-percent increase in VA Video Connect appointments between February and May 2020. And that’s only one of the many telehealth options available.
“As we near the three-year anniversary of the launch of VA Video Connect, even during these challenging times, VA has and continues to maintain access to high-quality care for Veterans,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a recent press release. “As the service becomes more popular, VA remains committed to providing a seamless user experience to ensure Veterans have access to care where and when they need it.”
Patel said ultimately, the clinic will work with patients to decide how to continue meeting their health care needs and goals, regardless the venue.
“Isolation can be one of the most devastating consequences of trauma; and a lot of the social issues happening beyond COVID-19 have had an impact on our Veterans,” Patel said. “Many people have struggled with the loss of routine, which Veterans work hard to build after getting out of the military. The disruption has been difficult for everyone.”
Patel, along with other providers at Harbor, stress that if Veterans are going through these common struggles there are self-care steps they should take immediately. Reestablishing a routine, even though it may be different than normal, is a great first step to getting back on track. Harbor’s dieticians are running virtual classes to help Veterans maintain healthy exercise and eating habits. And the PTSD team here is available to discuss disability-specific issues and other mental health questions.
Patel also said he has been impressed time and time again by the resilience of the Veterans he’s had the honor to work with. Mental health treatment is a path toward healing and understanding, can reduce symptoms attributed to trauma.
“We have to adapt to the reality of people’s lives in order to be truly effective. We remain steadfast in our commitment to Veterans to collaborate with them to be able to identify skills and resources to live fulfilling lives,” Patel said. “My message to Veterans and their loved ones is: Reach out. We value your journey and will be here for you.”