HHS and VA have just announced a joint effort to expand healthcare delivery to veterans living in rural areas. The agreement between the two agencies promotes collaboration between VA facilities, private hospitals, and clinics. The grant funding to be administered by HRSA for $983,100 will improve access and coordination of care through telehealth and by developing health information exchanges in rural areas.
Three states with the highest density of veterans living in Virginia, Montana, and Alaska, will each receive approximately $300,000 to implement or upgrade telehealth capabilities for veterans who must otherwise travel long distances to access medical, mental, and behavioral healthcare.
The grants will be used for telehealth equipment and to develop EHRs that are compatible with the VA’s VISTA system. The VA’s Telehealth Expansion Initiative, launched in May 2011 is growing VA’s telehealth workforce across the country and will provide a potential capacity of 1.2 million telehealth consultations annually when fully implemented.
The joint effort between HHS and VA is a result of the ongoing work of the White House Rural Council established by Executive Order last year. The Council aims to address challenges in rural America by streamlining and improving the effectiveness of federal programs serving rural America and also working to coordinate private sector partnerships.