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Veterans Affairs looks to cut wait times with telemedicine

SA system in need of physicians, psychiatrists

SAN ANTONIO – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is hoping to reduce wait times with the use of telemedicine.

Currently, one in five patients using clinics or hospitals in the VA's San Antonio system wait 30 days or more for an appointment.

Finding ways to get veterans more timely access to medical and mental health care in the agency's top priority.

That was the message Thursday in the Alamo City from the VA's new Under Secretary for Health Dr. David Shulkin.

"Here in San Antonio, our two biggest priority areas in terms of where we're having the most difficulty in hiring are primary care physicians and in psychiatrists and mental health professionals," he said.

Along with hiring doctors, the VA is expanding telemedicine, which lets patients have medical appointments without have to go to the VA facility.

The telemedicine program can be especially helpful for veterans in rural areas of Texas without one of the system's clinics or hospitals nearby.

The VA expects to reduce hospital admissions by as much as 35 percent nationally by using more telemedicine visits.