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0000017b-35e5-df5e-a97b-35edaf770000Over 70,000 people in Michigan served in the U.S. armed services during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.Michigan Radio’s Beyond the Battlefield series takes a look at how post-9/11 veterans are faring. Beyond the Battlefield features, interviews and online video profiles, exploring issues like employment, entrepreneurship, and reintegration into civilian life. The series also looks at how Michiganders think state and federal governments are doing at addressing veterans' care, as well as the particular struggles female veterans encounter when returning home.

Technology helping to cut wait times for veterans hoping to see their doctors

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Courtesy photo
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Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center

More Michigan veterans are trying “telehealth” appointments.

It’s sort of like seeing your doctor through a computer online, but the computer can also relay a heartbeat, the sound of a person's lungs, or detailed pictures of an injury.

Lillian Gerhart is a telehealth coordinator and nurse manager at the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center in Iron Mountain, where telehealth has become vital.

A veteran who talked to her about telehealth appointments a couple of weeks ago demonstrates why.

This veteran lives in Sault Ste Marie, Gerhart says. That means he made a four day round trip to see a cardiologist in Milwaukee.

“After I got done talking to the doctor about small stuff,’ he says, ‘the whole medical appointment took seven minutes.’ So it was four days for seven minutes,” Gerhart said.

After the initial appointment in Milwakee, Gerhart says the veteran can do telehealth appointments and get a checkup where he lives.

“I think the patients appreciate not having to travel such a long distance.” she said. "Some of the specialists aren’t even available in this area.”

Dermatologists, psychiatrists and psychologists are specialties that are hard to come by in the U.P., even outside of the VA system. The technology has made a difference in wait times for veterans there, according to a VA spokesman.

In 2014, about 4,000 patients in the region that covers the U.P. and northern Wisconsin had at least one telehealth appointment. That’s almost double the number of veterans who used telehealth in 2011.

The number of total telehealth appointments went from a couple thousand to more than 10,000 last year.

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