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Washington DC VA Medical Center

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Mobile Health Technology

Dr. Philip Seton, who heads the Medical Center's Emergency Department uses the VA Mobile Health Provider Program.

Dr. Philip Seton, who heads the Medical Center's Emergency Department uses the VA Mobile Health Provider Program.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Mobile Devices Improve Treatment Approach for Patients with Infectious Diseases

In the wake of the recent Ebola crisis, the Washington DC VA Medical Center (VAMC) took action to reduce exposure risks for VA clinical staff and patients by considering how to improve their approach for treating patients suspected of having a highly transmissible infectious disease such as Ebola. The solution they implemented took advantage of mobile technology for use by both patients and providers alike.

“We needed to find a better way to minimize exposure for our health care team when treating patients with potential, highly communicable, infectious diseases such as Ebola,” explained Dr. Philip Seton, Chief of the Emergency Department (ED) at the Washington DC VAMC. “We realized we could utilize the iPad to communicate with patients, and reduce unnecessary in-person risk.”

Dr. Seton’s ED team received several iPads as part of the VA Mobile Health Provider Program. The iPads enable on-the-go access to VA email, the VA App Catalog, commercial mHealth apps, and Virtual Private Network (VPN) capabilities in the medical center as well as off-site.

For Dr. Seton, one of the many benefits of the mobile technology is that it has allowed his team to develop a new protocol for treating patients at risk for an infectious disease. “Using the iPad to communicate with patients means that fewer nurses and physicians need to have physical contact with the patient, thus decreasing risk,” said Dr. Seton.

The new protocol begins as soon as a patient arrives at the ED and is identified as possibly having a high-risk, highly transmittable infectious disease. The patient is immediately moved to an isolation room with a nurse, who then teaches the patient how to use the iPad. During the isolation period, any physician, infectious disease consultant, nurse or other providers, can use the iPad to communicate with the patient to remotely collect the patient’s history and evaluate for the presence of a high-risk infectious disease such as Ebola.

The benefit of this new approach is that it enables multiple providers to communicate with patients with no risk of infection, while simultaneously expanding treatment options for patients. Furthermore, patients are kept safe from potentially harmful outside exposure and have the ability to communicate, even while they are under quarantined conditions. The mobile devices are also equipped with cases that are waterproof, dirt proof, and easy to wipe down with disinfectant solutions, making the devices suitable for use in a clinical environment with potential infectious diseases.

Washington DC VAMC is among 18 sites to receive mobile devices through this program. In total, more than 7,000 VHA providers and staff have begun incorporating mobile devices into their daily workflows. As the Mobile Health Provider Program continues to evolve, with soon to be released VA-developed mobile apps, so do the opportunities to integrate mobile technology to improve Veteran care.

For more information on the Mobile Health Provider Program, please visit:


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