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:
- Rural Promising Practices: Identification and system-wide implementation of innovative new models of care by ORH's Veterans Rural Health Resource Centers. Current practices in mentored implementation include HIV virtual teams, tele-rehabilitation for Veterans with multiple sclerosis, rural cardiac rehabilitation, suicide prevention, and more
- Enterprise-Wide Initiatives: Establishment of 40+ nationwide rural programs that provide more health care options including teleradiology, transportation, telephone lifestyle coaching, telemental health, tele-stroke, precision oncology care, and tele-intensive care units
Fiscal year 2021 solutions include:
- Increased virtual access to providers: ORH funded 32 telehealth initiatives ($189 million) to provide mental health, radiology, neurology, ophthalmology and primary care locally to rural Veterans. ORH-funded Clinical Resource Hubs offer primary care services to more than 76,560 rural Veterans; mental health services to more than 41,442 rural Veterans; and specialty care services to more than 6,708 rural Veterans.
- Increased rural workforce clinical skills: ORH funded training initiatives ($4.8 million) at 2,076 VA rural sites of care to enable more local providers to deliver fundamental geriatric, obstetrics and gynecology, nephrology, and psychiatry specialty care services. More than 33,000 provider, staff and student attendees completed ORH-funded training to support rural Veteran care.
- Increased transportation assistance: ORH funded transportation programs ($16.7 million) at 113 VA sites of care to reduce the travel burden experienced by rural Veterans due to distance, geography and lack of public transportation. More than 158,000 rural Veterans used ORH-funded transportation services in fiscal year 2021.