Technology helping Iowa City VA better serve veterans

By Madison Arnold, The Gazette

IOWA CITY — Officials from the Iowa City VA Health Care System want veterans to know technology is helping improve the quality of their care.

Representatives of Iowa City’s Veterans Affairs system, which serves Eastern Iowa and parts of surrounding states, showed off equipment like check-in kiosks, telemedicine and buses with wheelchair lifts during a media tour on Tuesday.

“Technology is always moving forward, and it’s important for us to move with that because that’s what is important to the care of our veteran population,” said Jamie Johnson, public affairs officer for Iowa City’s VA Health Care System.

The Iowa City VA showcased its telemedicine system — a way to connect patients with doctors at the VA and with medical experts across the county, either from a veterans’ home or the hospital.

Tyler Goss, the hospital’s telehealth manager, said the system works much like a smartphone, with live video chats between patients and doctors. Patients also can send information similar to a text message with photos or data.

Goss said the telemedicine system has many advantages because it can “bring the care to the patient.” He said veterans who frequently have trouble getting to the hospital can still receive medical attention, and doctors can see how patients’ bodies work at home in their normal environment.

The VA has updated check-in kiosks throughout the facility. Veterans can now check in, update contact information and print off a schedule of future appointments all at one station, said Joe Goedken, the business officer manager.

The kiosks are built with screens designed to protect privacy, with an automatic timeout function if someone steps away.

Goedken said the VA also is working on a tablet form of the kiosk to further increase access.

Eric Solomon, mobility manager for Iowa City’s VA, said Iowa City was one of the first 50 VAs to get the Veteran Transportation Service system, a fleet of four buses with wheelchair lifts meant to provide door-to-door transportation for veterans heading to health care appointments.

Solomon said the program transports 50 to 60 veterans per month. Officials have ordered three more buses and are working on equipping buses for stretchers in the future, Solomon said.

“One of the biggest issues with some of our veteran population is a lack of transportation,” he said.

Veronica Jackson-Patrick, chief of voluntary services, said veterans needing transportation help should call their county VA office to be connected with a local transportation coordinator.