VA, Walmart launch latest telehealth location to serve veterans

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The Department of Veterans Affairs and Walmart continue to open telemedicine sites in communities across the country as part of the VA-led Accessing Telehealth through Local Areas Stations pilot.

The Walmart store in Asheboro, N.C., is the latest retail location to offer private spaces to veterans for video appointments with VA healthcare providers. Other ATLAS pilot sites are located in Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin, offering a range of telehealth clinical services that vary by location—including primary care, nutrition, mental health and social work—but that do not require hands-on physical exams.

“This type of collaboration is the way of the future,” says VA Secretary Robert Wilkie in a written statement. “Veterans need the expansion of choice, and this partnership is vital to affording them convenient access to VA healthcare services where they live.”

ATLAS is intended to provide timely care for veterans who live in rural areas that are long distances from VA medical centers or have poor internet connectivity at home. So far, as part of the public-private partnership, Walmart has donated equipment and space at five sites where the VA’s Video Connect—secure videoconferencing software—provides the enabling communications technology.

“Walmart is committed to making quality healthcare affordable and accessible and is working with VA to expand its ability to serve veterans through technology,” says Daryl Risinger, the retailer’s chief growth officer for U.S. health and wellness. “This is another way we are helping our communities live better.”

In addition to Walmart stores, the agency is planning to open other ATLAS pilot sites in select American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts.

“VA providers may prescribe most medications for veterans during appointments at ATLAS sites,” according to the agency. “There are no VA employees based at ATLAS sites, but there is an attendant on-site who will provide veterans with information, assist them with getting started, troubleshoot any technical issues and clean the space between appointments.”

At the same time, the VA emphasizes that the attendants at ATLAS sites “will not be present once the appointment begins nor have access to veterans’ medical information.”

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