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Utilization of Interactive Clinical Video Telemedicine by Rural and Urban Veterans in the Veterans Health Administration Health Care System.

Adams SV, Mader MJ, Bollinger MJ, Wong ES, Hudson TJ, Littman AJ. Utilization of Interactive Clinical Video Telemedicine by Rural and Urban Veterans in the Veterans Health Administration Health Care System. The Journal of rural health : official journal of the American Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Care Association. 2019 Jun 1; 35(3):308-318.

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PURPOSE: Interactive clinical video telemedicine (CVT) has the potential to benefit health care systems and patients by improving access, lowering costs, and more efficiently distributing providers. However, there is a gap in current knowledge around the demand for and potential uses of CVT in large integrated health care systems. METHODS: We conducted an observational study using Veterans Health Administration (VHA) administrative databases to analyze trends in CVT utilization, and types of care received, among 7.65 million veterans during fiscal years (FY) 2009-2015 (October 1, 2008-September 30, 2015). Trends were stratified by veteran rurality and analyzed using linear regression. Among 4.95 million veterans in FY2015, we used logistic regression to identify characteristics associated with CVT utilization for any care, mental health care, and major specialties. FINDINGS: Over 6 years, the annual CVT utilization grew from 30 to 124 encounters per 1,000 veterans ( > 300% increase), with faster growth among rural veterans than urban veterans. Over the study period, = 50% of all CVT-delivered care was mental health care. In FY2015, 3.2% of urban and 7.2% of rural veterans utilized CVT for nearly 725,000 clinical encounters. Rural residence, younger age, longer driving distance to VHA facilities, one or more comorbidities, and higher rates of traditional, non-video utilization were independently associated with higher odds of CVT use. CONCLUSIONS: CVT utilization in VHA has increased quickly and exceeds published rates in the private health care market. The availability of CVT has likely increased access to VHA care for rural veterans, especially for mental health care.

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