Using technology for Veterans' health care needs - Polytrauma/TBI System of Care
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Using technology for Veterans' health care needs

Lead Wheelchair Technician Paul Alonzo (left) participated in South Texas Veterans Health Care System’s first telehealth wheelchair fitting with Veteran Carl Johnson (on camera) and Assistive Technology Therapy Supervisor Reuben Rodriguez.

Lead Wheelchair Technician Paul Alonzo (left) participated in South Texas Veterans Health Care System’s first telehealth wheelchair fitting with Veteran Carl Johnson (on camera) and Assistive Technology Therapy Supervisor Reuben Rodriguez.

By Justin G. Saucier
Thursday, April 23, 2020

Until recently, Veterans who needed to be fitted for a new wheelchair were required to physically go to the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.  

In the interest of encouraging Veterans to social distance and prevent potential exposure to COVID-19, the hospital’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service teamed up with Prosthetics Service to provide an extraordinary care experience to Carl Johnson, a 76-year-old Army Veteran.

Johnson became the first Veteran ever to have his wheelchair delivered to his home and receive a Telehealth wheelchair fitting appointment.

“It was great, it was right on time,” said Johnson who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. “I’m just loving it.”

From his residence, Johnson, along with a wheelchair vendor, participated in a telehealth appointment with Paul Alonzo, a lead wheelchair technician, and Reuben Rodriguez, an assistive technology therapy supervisor, both located at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial Veterans Hospital.

After Johnson sat in his new wheelchair, Alonzo and Rodriguez gave the wheelchair vendor instructions on how to adjust various parts of the wheelchair. The discussion focused on safety, comfort, and efficiencies.

“They were looking at everything and could actually see what adjustments needed to be made,” said Carl’s wife, Frankie, who noticed the attention to detail during the fitting. “I think they did it just right.”

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread among the American population, Frankie was relieved she and her husband did not have to leave the house.

“I didn’t even have to ask the vendor to put on any protective gear,” said Frankie. “He was already prepared to come in our home safely and do the job right.”

“With the disease that I have, the care I have received at Audie L. Murphy has been excellent and they treat me like I’m their top priority,” said Johnson, adding he believes the power of technology holds the key to allowing VA to continuously serve its Veterans.

For more virtual care options at the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, talk to your primary care provider or visit www.southtexas.va.gov.

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