In theory, telehealth promises easier patient access to medical and health services, more efficient use of clinical resources, and improved cost containment compared to conventional face-to-face care models. Telemedicine and telehealth are still in their early stages; challenges include adequate equipment and internet access for patients, insurance coverage to pay providers for the new service delivery model, and buy-in by all involved parties.

The United States Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) recently announced a partnership with Verizon to address the challenge of patient access. Verizon customers who are veterans can access VA Video Connect, the VA’s telehealth app without data charges. Vets who use VA Video Connect interact with VA care teams for video appointments using their device’s video camera, microphone, and speakers. Veterans can also chat with health care professionals with the app. The live telehealth connection via Verizon’s nationwide 4G LTE network is an encrypted video stream.

The VA-Verizon partnership is a praiseworthy model we wish all carriers would copy. Presently the downloadable VA Video Connect app is available for iOS devices only. Android and other OS users can launch a telehealth session via email, but that’s not as convenient as a mobile app. As the program stands now, vets may have to make changes to take advantage of this free access. Those who use other carriers would have to switch to Verizon, and Verizon customers who use Android phones and tablets would need to switch to an Apple device, either of which can be a costly transition.