IMPACT ON RURAL VETERANS' HEALTH
Increased Access to Care for Rural Veterans
For more than a decade, the Office of Rural Health (ORH) has pursued a four-part mission: promote the health and well-being of rural Veterans, generate and diffuse knowledge regarding rural Veteran health, strengthen community health care infrastructure that serves rural Veterans, and inform policy that impacts rural Veteran care delivery. The Office focuses on a wide variety of programs to address rural Veterans unique health care challenges. The Office has funded more than 1,700 rural programs at local VA medical centers, and now uses two primary models to disseminate innovation across VHA:
- Enterprise-Wide Initiatives: Establishment of 40 nationwide rural programs that provide more health care options due to teleradiology, transportation, telephone lifestyle coaching, telemental health, tele-stroke, precision oncology care, and tele-intensive care units
- Rural Promising Practices: Identification and implementation of 15 models of care that expand rural Veterans’ access to care for multiple sclerosis, HIV, cardiac rehabilitation, mental health care, and more
Fiscal year 2017 solutions include:
- Increased virtual access to providers: ORH funded 22 telehealth initiatives ($102 million) at 609 VA sites of care to provide mental health, radiology, neurology, ophthalmology and primary care locally to rural Veterans. Ten rural telemental health hubs offer mental health services to 18,000 Veterans, many in rural communities, through more than 165 spoke sites.
- Increased rural workforce clinical skills: ORH funded seven training initiatives ($12 million) at 51 VA medical sites to enable more local providers to deliver fundamental geriatric, obstetrics and gynecology, nephrology, and psychiatry specialty care services. More than 10,000 provider, staff and student attendees completed training to support rural Veteran care.
- Increased transportation assistance: ORH funded transportation programs ($17 million) at 40 VA sites of care to reduce the travel burden experienced by rural Veterans due to distance, geography and lack of public transportation. Nearly 43,000 rural Veterans used ORH-provided transportation services in fiscal year 2017.