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July 13, 2013

VA officials: Tele-health can cut costs

MALONE — Advances in technology are partially behind the initial decision to close the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs clinic in Malone.

The VA is implementing more tele-health services across the country to save money and provide the latest advanced treatment and care for its clients.

Peter Potter, public-affairs director at the Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany, said in a recent interview that the agency can provide cheaper medical services to veterans.

But the Malone space wouldn’t be able to accommodate some of those needs.

‘THIRD-HIGHEST COST’

Fewer vets are using the local clinic than ever, and the treatment cost per person is nearly four times the national average, VA Medical Center Director Linda Weiss said. It normally costs the VA between $3,000 and $4,000 to care for a veteran annually, but in Malone, it is $11,000 per person.

She said it is the third-highest fee for any VA clinic in the country.

Potter had said the pending closure in Malone “is a justifiable concern, but because of the budget we carry, we have to maximize our budgeted dollars.

“Our main goal is to be sure we’re giving the best care to veterans, no matter where they live,” he said, which, for example, means using computerized medical records so no matter what clinic a vet uses in the country, records are instantly available electronically to the treating staff.

‘FREEDOM FOR VETS’

It also means using technology with home-health-care providers who can transmit live video or monitor readings to a doctor from the client’s home, saving the person the burden and expense of travel.

“A vet won’t have to drive 4½ hours to get care,” Potter said. “We are able to provide that service locally. It’s freedom for the vets.

“And by looking at the TV screen, the doctor can see 400, 600, 800 degrees of magnification on high-definition equipment,” he said.

“I think the veterans will be pleased.”

Email Denise A. Raymo:draymo@pressrepublican.com

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