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NineStar Connect to open ‘virtual living room’ in Greenfield for veteran telehealth appointments

Published Friday, December 27, 2019

GREENFIELD — NineStar Connect plans to open a space in Greenfield where veterans can comfortably access telehealth appointments with Veterans Affairs physicians, called a “virtual living room.”

Many veterans travel to Indianapolis to access health care through the VA, NineStar vice president of administration Regina Bever said. She said the virtual living room, which NineStar will operate in partnership with Hancock Health, will give them a space that is “relaxed and not in a medical setting” where they can conduct video calls with doctors.

Veterans will connect with VA doctors or nurses via videoconferencing software. Bever said she is not sure yet which platform will be used, but the service will use NineStar’s fiber-optic internet service.

The facility will be located in a room currently used for storage in the Memorial Building at 98 E. North Street in Greenfield. NineStar Connect has received a $5,000 grant for the project and will provide an additional $5,000 in matching funds.

The Hancock County Commissioners approved a motion at their meeting on Dec. 17 to allow use of the space and renovation to create a comfortable environment with a stable internet connection.

Bever said NineStar does not yet have permission to reveal the name of the organization that provided the grant.

The space will be located in the same building as the Hancock County Veterans Service office. Bever said NineStar hopes it will be operational during the first quarter of 2020.

The VA has also focused on telehealth in its effort to provide health-care services to veterans living in rural areas. Use of such services has increased 17 percent in fiscal year 2019 alone, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Bob Workman, the veterans service officer for Hancock County, said he believes the service will be a beneficial one. He said there are approximately 6,000 veterans in Hancock County, and many are reluctant to travel to Indianapolis for health concerns that seem minor.

“We’re going to ask every veteran that comes in here, ‘Do you have any issues with your health care that could be resolved today if you could talk to a doctor or a nurse practitioner online?’” Workman said.

Workman said his office receives about 50 visitors a month, but the virtual living room space may increase that traffic as more veterans learn about it.