Visit your VA doctor online.
While My HealtheVet is a great program, there's another one that's even better, in my opinion. It's called Jabber, a video-teleconferencing technology that the VA utilizes. Jabber is a software program that allows you to talk face-to-face with your health care providers, including doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, in the privacy of your home.
Jabber allows veterans to speak directly with their provider. It's a great alternative if getting to a VA hospital is difficult or there are other problems in getting access to the VA professional with whom you need to speak.
To use the Jabber system from the VA side, you need a VA facility that has someone familiar with managing the Jabber system, VA providers who have access to a computer with a camera and the Jabber software program loaded on their computer and time set aside to speak to you.
From your side, you need similar things. Specifically, you need a computer with a camera, a computer with the Jabber software program loaded on it, access to a DSL line or some other internet line that has speed fast enough to carry both audio and graphic information simultaneously and a time set aside to speak to the person with whom you want to talk.
I won't get into the technical aspects of how the VA operates the system on their end, because they need to be willing to set the system up and train their staff on how to use it. From the veteran's end, it's relatively simple.
You need a time scheduled that you and your physician, for example, can speak to each other. You will receive a password from the VA and other data needed to talk to your physician. This will occur at least 24 hours before the meeting and will be sent to the email address you provided the VA.
Approximately five minutes before the meeting starts, you'll open the Jabber program and the internet information that was sent to you to access the meeting. Copy the information from the email and paste it into the Jabber program. If you've done it correctly, you'll hear a sound like a telephone ring. If your doctor is online, he or she will accept your call on the program and you'll see and hear him or her.
From that point on, the meeting progresses exactly like it would if you were sitting across from your physician in his or her office. Jabber meetings usually last approximately an hour, although there's no set limit. The discussions are private and can cover anything you and your health care professional want to discuss.
To see a detailed example of how the system works in the mental health area, visit mirecc.va.gov/VISN 16/docs/CVTHM_Toolkit.pdf. Although this site is oriented toward the mental health system, it gives a detailed explanation of how Jabber works and what's needed on both sides.
If the medical facility you use has the Jabber system, I urge you to set it up on your computer and use it. I've been using the Jabber system for about three years and find it very valuable. Your doctor can stay updated and, if necessary, can schedule a hospital admission for you. The system helps avoid long trips to the outpatient clinic and long waits when you get there.
While not as perfect as an in-person meeting with someone, I think the Jabber system is the next best thing. Take the time to find out if your hospital uses it. If it does, give it a try. Combining Jabber with My HealtheVet provides a good set of tools to help you.
While I sometimes criticize the VA, on this editorial, I give them an A+ here. They have two tools that you'll be glad you have to use.
RICHARD HOOVER, EDITOR