Meeting the needs of rural-dwelling Veterans is a priority research area supported by HSR&D. A committee comprised of HSR&D leadership and investigators, staff from VA’s Office of Rural Health, and other stakeholders was created and tasked with planning a field-based State of the Art (SOTA) Conference to create a strategic rural Veteran healthcare research agenda. The planning committee identified three priority topics as the focus for the field-based meeting:
Addressing COVID-19 and future VA and community care challenges in the face of public health emergencies (e.g. natural disasters; future pandemics)
Integrated care between VA and community non-VA services
Workforce development challenges for rural healthcare providers
In addition, the committee recognized that four themes cut across the priority topics:
Cultural context for rural populations and how best to put forward culturally relevant recommendations
Issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion as they apply to rural populations
Innovations to improve access—including telehealth, but also developing other innovative ways to improve access
Mental health and overall wellbeing is a key concern for today’s Veterans--how do we meet the specific needs of rural Veterans in these areas
The committee invited participants into one of three workgroups to address the priority topics. Each workgroup was tasked with the following related to their topic:
Identify key research questions
Evaluate the state of the evidence for key research questions
Determine which questions have sufficient evidence to guide practice and policy
Reach consensus on recommendations for a research agenda that fill gaps in our understanding of unanswered, or inadequately answered, research questions.
Prioritize 2-3 of the most important questions.
Recommendations from the SOTA will be used in a variety of ways, including to develop an HSRD research solicitation, advance collaborations across the VA and with external stakeholders, and explore other funding mechanisms to support high-quality rural Veteran health research.