North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Budget, has long been a champion for telehealth to enable veterans to receive appropriate care in rural areas. Recently, he introduced both the “Veterans Telemedicine Act of 2011” (S 1124) which expands the use of teleconsultations teleretinal imaging, telemedicine and telehealth at veteran’s healthcare facilities and the “Veterans Rural Health Improvement Act of 2011” (S 1127).
As Senator Conrad reports, the VA Health Care Network serving North Dakota would expand the use of telehealth technologies at the VA’s Community-Based Outpatient Clinics by creating financial incentives to support the use of telehealth. The legislation also calls for additional telemedicine programs to focus specifically on mental health and TBI treatments.
The second piece of legislation introduced would create “Rural Centers of Excellence” to conduct research and education with the goal to improve the outcomes and the quality of life for rural veterans. These centers would be required to develop innovative clinical activities and systems of care for rural veterans along with providing education and training on rural health issues for healthcare professionals.
More than 20 percent of the veterans in this country live in rural areas and it is difficult sometimes to receive treatment. To handle the veterans with problems in rural America, the VA established the Office of Rural Health which in turn, established three Rural Health Resource Centers on a temporary basis but the new legislation would make these resource centers permanent.
Both pieces of legislation have been referred to the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.