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Hon. Michael H. Michaud, Chairman, Subcommittee on Health

The Subcommittee on Health will now come to order.  I would like to thank everyone for attending this hearing.  The purpose of today’s hearing is to learn about the wide range of innovative wireless health technology solutions and their potential application to help our veterans living in rural communities.

Of the nearly 8 million veterans who are enrolled in the VA health care system, about 3 million are from rural areas.  This means that rural veterans make up about 40 percent of all enrolled veterans.   For the 3 million veterans living in rural areas, access to health care remains a key barrier, as they simply live too far away from the nearest VA medical center.  Unfortunately, this means that rural veterans cannot see a doctor or a health care worker to receive the care that they need when they need it.  Given these barriers, it is no surprise that our rural veterans have worse health outcomes compared to the general population.

This is where I see the great potential of innovative wireless health technologies.  VA certainly is a recognized leader in using electronic health records, telehealth, and telemedicine.  However, wireless health technologies also include mobile health, which truly is the new frontier in health innovations.  Mobile health makes it possible for health care professionals to receive real-time health data such as vital signs, glucose levels, and medication compliance because data from the patient’s mobile sensors are relayed over wireless connections.  Mobile health also makes it possible for health care professionals to download health data using PDAs and Smartphones.  These innovations not only empower our rural veterans, but can improve health outcomes as veterans have the necessary tools to better manage chronic diseases and receive timely health care in the comfort of their homes.  

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today, as we learn more about innovative wireless health technologies and explore ways that we can best support wireless health solutions in the VA.