THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I’d like to begin by thanking Secretary David Shulkin for the incredible progress that he’s making at the VA — tremendous strides. Thank you very much, David. We appreciate it. The veterans appreciate it, I can tell you that.
Today, I’m pleased to announce another historic breakthrough that will expand VA services to many more patients and veterans. We will do this through telehealth services. It’s what its called — telehealth services.
We’re expanding the ability of veterans to connect with their VA health care team from anywhere using a mobile application on the veterans own phone or the veterans own computer. This will significantly expand access to care for our veterans, especially for those who need help in the area of mental health, which is a bigger and bigger request — and also in suicide prevention. It will make a tremendous difference for the veterans in rural locations in particular.
We’re launching the mobile app that will allow VA patients to schedule and change their appointments at VA facilities using their smartphones. So this is something they were never able to do. Technology has given us this advantage, but unfortunately, we have not taken advantage of that until now.
We’re working tirelessly to keep our promises to our great veterans. Very important. And in my campaign and on the campaign trail, the veterans mean so much to me and this administration. In the past six months, I have signed historic VA accountability legislation. I have signed legislation to extend and improve the Veterans Choice Program. We’re starting to really get that to a point where choice is just becoming something that they are extremely happy about, and they’ve wanted it for many, many years.
We’re working to enable seamless care between the Departments of Defense and Veteran Affairs. We have launched a groundbreaking new website that allows veterans to compare wait times and quality of care at VA facilities and other hospitals. So we’re actually able to connect our facilities with other hospitals and other VA facilities. So we’ll really strike a little competitive advantage and I think get people moving even better.
And we have dramatically increased the number of approvals for veterans to see the doctors. So they are going to have many more doctors of their choice.
These accomplishments are only the beginning. We will not rest until all of Americas great veterans can receive the care they so richly deserve. Tremendous progress has been made in a short period of time. We’ve only been here six months, but tremendous progress has been made.
And I want to ask Dr. Shulkin, perhaps, to give us a little preview of whats to come. Thank you.
SECRETARY SHULKIN: Mr. President, thank you so much.
What were announcing today is a big deal for veterans. Its really going to expand access for veterans in a way we havent done before. And, as you may know, VA already has the largest telehealth program in the country. Last year we had 700,000 veterans who got telehealth services through the VA, and we actually can do this for 50 different specialties. In fact, Mr. President, if you take a look at all those specialties on this chart, we can provide telehealth services from tele-dermatology, to tele-intensive care, to tele-dentistry. And this is the type of thing that is available now to our veterans.
But what we’re announcing today dramatically expands our current capabilities. Mr. President, by working with the Office of American Innovation and the Department of Justice, we’re going to be issuing a regulation that allows our VA providers to provide telehealth services from anywhere in the country to veterans anywhere in the country, whether it’s in their homes or any location. We call it “anywhere to anywhere” VA healthcare. That’s a big deal.
Now, just think about this. That means we’re going to be able to use VA providers in cities where there are a lot of doctors, and be able to use those doctors to help our veterans in rural areas where there aren’t many healthcare professionals. And you talked about mental health and suicide prevention; this is one of those areas that we can really use that expertise. And today’s announcement is going to allow us to do that.
What we’re going to be rolling out nationally with a rollout across the country is what’s called VA Video Connect. VA Video Connect allows VA providers to use mobile devices to connect with veterans on their mobile devices or their home computers. That’s a big deal.
Currently, we use VA Video Connect with over 300 VA providers at 67 of our hospitals or clinics across the country. But that’s beginning to roll out nationally.
And there’s one more thing, Mr. President. We’re going to be announcing a new technology called the Veterans Appointment Request. And what that is, is it’s allowing the veteran, on their smartphone, to be able to schedule their appointments directly with VA providers or to change their appointments, or cancel their appointments with VA providers. Now, today, this is available in all 18 of our regions across the country. And we’ve already booked more than 4,000 appointments from veterans directly from their smartphones so that they can schedule their own appointments.
But now we’re announcing the national rollout of this. And if veterans want to see and get the Veterans Appointment Request, you can see on our website — mobile.va.gov/appstore. The VA app store has this available for download.
So, Mr. President, what we’re really doing is, we’re removing regulations that have prevented us from doing this. We’re removing geography as a barrier so that we can speed up access to veterans and really honor our commitment to them.
Now, let me show you how this works, Mr. President. If we come over here — we use technology in a way that’s pretty incredible. In fact, Mr. President, I’m one of those doctors. I practice right here in Washington to my clinic in Grants Pass, Oregon. And I want to say hello to our veteran today. Mr. Amescua, how are you?
Mr. Amescua is a veteran. He served in the Coast Guard for 26 years. He was a helicopter rescue swimmer and served the country. And here we are in Oregon. And this is our great team — Peggy and Denise and Terry. And, Peggy, would you mind — I understand there might be some area of concern on Mr. Amescua’s skin. Can we take a look at that, please?
TEAM MEMBER: Yes, sir. Dr. Shulkin, this is the area that is of concern.
SECRETARY SHULKIN: Okay. So as we focus in on that, you can see, Mr. President, I can take a look at that area and if I have any concern about it, we can send this to a specialist or we can take a look at it. But thank you.
Mr. Amescua, we’ll be right back with you soon. I just want to show the President a few other things, but well be right back with you.
Mr. President, if you walk over here, this is actually the new doctor’s bag — the doctor’s bag of the future. And you may actually recognize this because this is the doctor’s bag that travels with you when you go on Air Force One. And so we have Dr. Ronny Jackson, your doctor here that usually takes care of you, Dr. Jackson. And we now are able to bring this doctors bag into the home of our veterans. Our nurse practitioners, our technicians are able to use this type of technology now — the same technology available to the President of the United States. And that’s the way it should be because our veterans deserve that type of technology.
THE PRESIDENT: That’s great.
SECRETARY SHULKIN: Now, I’m going to show you just one or two other things. Dr. Neil Evans over here, one of our doctors, is going to show you VA Video Connect that I talked about. So here we are in Grants Pass, Oregon. Hi, Mr. Amescua, how are you? Can you raise your hand? Good.
So here we are in Grants Pass, Oregon on our mobile device, and this is how we can use VA Video Connect. But watch this, Mr. President. If we need to bring in a specialist from anywhere in the country into Grants Pass, Oregon, we can. So Dr. Brook Watts. Do you want to say hello, Dr. Watts?
DR. WATTS: Good Morning, Dr. Shulkin. Good morning, Mr. President. And good morning, Mr. Amescua. Thank you so much for your service.
SECRETARY SHULKIN: Dr. Watts is a specialist — an internal medicine specialist in Cleveland, Oregon, and she is now connected in with Mr. Amescua in Grants Pass, Oregon. So we can get the expertise from anywhere in the country immediately. The VA is able to do this right now. So thank you very much.
And so, Mr. President, this is how we’re expanding access. This is how we’re bringing the very best technology available in the country. And really thanks to your help in cutting through the regulation, the Office of American Innovation, were able to expand that success dramatically today and to roll this out.
And as you said, with our accountability bill, our replacing our electronic medical record, the progress we’re making — in six months we have been able to do tremendous things. But it’s just the beginning of what were going to do for our veterans.
So thank you very much. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Doctor. And I just want to thank him, and your skin — I hope your skin is going to be improved. (Laughter.) You look pretty good to me, but what do I know? (Laughter.)
SECRETARY SHULKIN: Mr. Amescua, why don’t you say something if you want to say hello to the President.
MR. AMESCUA: Good morning, Mr. President, how are you?
THE PRESIDENT: Very good. You look very healthy to me, I will tell you that. (Laughter.) Please make sure your skin is perfect. (Laughter.)
Thank you very much. Great technology. Great to be here. Thank you. (Applause.)
We’re going to West Virginia tonight, by the way. We’re going to have a very big announcement, which will be very exciting I think for the media and everyone else. But we have a very big announcement tonight. I believe Ill be making it in West Virginia, so that will very exciting.
Thank you very much.