The Occupational Therapy (OT) team at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center expands at-home offerings by using existing technology to see Veterans. The OT team already used VA Video Connect (VVC) to connect with its Veterans virtually but with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, they strived to utilize VVC to its fullest potential.

OT is the practice of caring for the whole quality of life and wellbeing of an individual.

“It was never an option not to provide OT services to our Veterans,” said Kristen Wingate, Occupational Therapist. “The purpose of OT is to give meaning and value back to one’s life and at a time when somebody can feel so isolated, OT is even more important.’’

Above, Wingate (with her jump rope) conducts a VVC appointment with Veteran.

“Aging in Place” essential for post-surgical care

VVC technology has enabled the Martinsburg VAMC OT team to reach those goals by virtually providing services such as home medical equipment evaluations. Referred to as ‘Aging in Place,’ these evaluations are essential to successful outcomes, especially for Veterans post-surgical care.

In some cases, these virtual appointments are more successful than face-to-face ones.

Home Based Primary Care (HBPC) Veterans were provided OT services from the safety of their homes using VVC and other forms of technology, such as Facetime, to meet their needs while under pandemic restrictions.

Ron Gentile, HBPC supervisor, notes how important creativity is during the pandemic. Other options include providing treatment plans and exercise programs through secure messaging, as well as appointments over the phone.

These new and expanded options will not end when the pandemic is over: Veterans are pleasantly surprised at how successful their virtual OT appointments are. Wingate says although some technical difficulties occur, overall virtual OT appointments will not only remain but continue to grow.

Gentile looks forward to the day when he can resume more in-person visits, saying that humans by nature are social beings but cannot deny the value of technology to assist with virtual appointments in this time of need.

The Martinsburg VA Medical Center serves over 70,000 Veterans across the four states of West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Located in Martinsburg, West Virginia, the medical center operates seven Community Based Outpatient Clinics. The clinics are in Cumberland, Hagerstown and Fort Detrick, Maryland; Petersburg and Franklin, West Virginia; and Harrisonburg and Stephens City, Virginia.

Chiray Weatherholtz is a public affairs specialist for the Martinsburg VA.

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Published on May. 16, 2021

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