Grants Pass veteran helps unveil VA technology to White House, Pres. Trump

Albie Amescua (right) helps demonstrate what nurses and doctors can do to analyze skin using the Telehealth technology. (KTVL/Mike Marut)

Grants Pass, Ore. - Thursday morning, Dr. David Shulkin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, helped present Telehealth to President Donald Trump with the help of an outpatient clinic and patient in Grants Pass.

Albie Amescua, a Coast Guard veteran living in Grants Pass, met with both men via Telehealth - a technology that helps Amescua receive care he needs from the VA, even though his doctor is based in Boise, Idaho.

"You know at first I might have been a little skeptical until they brought me in here and showed me what it was all about," Amescua said. "I couldn't believe the technology and how comfortable it made you feel. It's like the doctor was in the next room over."

Amescua admits he didn't completely understand the idea of having a doctor literally working states away from him. The technology functions like Facetime or Skype. Doctors in Grants Pass use a high definition camera to take a look at something on a patient - in Thursday's example, doctors zoomed in on Amescua's skin. The video is transmitted onto a monitor that both the doctor in Boise and the nurses in Grants Pass can see.

"As far as the stethoscope and the close ups they can get on whatever the doctor needs to see," Amescua said. "I was told, and this is what kind of put me at ease, is that it actually picks up things better than the human eye can."

The technology has been around for a few years, but has really taken off in the last year or so. It helps a lot with reducing wait times for VA patients to see a doctor.

"14% of our outpatient population has received Telehealth services this fiscal year," Tracy Dekelboum, chief of Telehealth services at the White City VA, said. "It allows us to have more providers accessible by our site, or bringing the specialty care services that we don't have at our site."

Because some of southern Oregon's population lives in rural areas, a concern may be that the technology cannot be used at home. In fact, the technology can be used from the VA App Store. Dekelboum says so far, the VA has had no problems with bandwidth or connectivity.

As a parting word with Amescua, President Trump wished him good health.

"Please make sure his skin is perfect," Trump joked at the end of the Telehealth event.

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