President Trump and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin unveiled a new service for veterans Thursday that will allow patients to schedule health care appointments from their smartphones or computers.
The Veterans Affairs Telehealth Services is now available on a mobile app with the aim of making it easier for veterans to obtain as many as 50 health care services, from dentistry to dermatology.
“This will significantly expand access to care for our veterans, especially those who need help in the area of mental health,” Mr. Trump said at the White House. “It will make a tremendous difference for the veterans in rural locations, in particular.”
In an apparent dig at his predecessor, President Obama, Mr. Trump said the technology has been available for years, “but, unfortunately, we have not taken advantage of that until now.”
Mr. Shulkin said the new service allows health care providers to use mobile devices to connect with veterans on their own mobile devices or home computers.
“We’re removing regulations that have prevented us from doing this. We’re removing geography as a barrier,” Mr. Shulkin said.
On a video link at the White House, the president and Mr. Shulkin conversed with a Coast Guard veteran in Oregon who was visiting a doctor’s office for a skin problem. They showed Mr. Trump a close-up of the patient’s skin on the video screen.
“Looked pretty good to me, what do I know?” the president joked.
“You look very healthy to me,” he told the veteran. Then he told the doctors, “Please make sure his skin is perfect, OK?”
About 700,000 veterans obtained health care last year via telehealth services, but Mr. Shulkin said the mobile technology will greatly expand veterans’ options.
Mr. Shulkin said the new service will not necessarily improve a veteran’s ability to see a doctor sooner, depending on their location.
“There are plenty of medical centers that have easy access, and there are some that still are struggling because of shortages of health care professionals,” he said.
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