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Personalized implementation of video telehealth for rural veterans (PIVOT-R).

Day SC, Day G, Keller M, Touchett H, Amspoker AB, Martin L, Lindsay JA. Personalized implementation of video telehealth for rural veterans (PIVOT-R). mHealth. 2021 Apr 20; 7:24.

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Background: A national shortage of mental health (MH) professionals leaves more than 90% of rural individuals without adequate access to services each year, troubling because 33% of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) enrollees live in rural areas and rural Veterans have a greater risk of suicide than urban Veterans. Additional barriers such as travel distance and cost, stigma and extreme weather or geography add to challenges of rural Veterans seeking treatment. Although the VHA has addressed this disparity by providing telemental health services, provision of services via traditional hub-and-spoke and/or establishment of regional centers has not fully addressed barriers or resource limitations. Video telehealth to home (VTH) has assisted in better addressing geographic, attitudinal and systematic barriers to in-person care; however, its uptake and implementation have been problematic. This article describes the Personalized Implementation of Video Telehealth for Rural Veterans (PIVOT-R) approach, developed in response to the unique needs of rural veterans. Methods: We developed PIVOT, a flexible implementation strategy that is adaptive to site-specific contexts and different digital innovations and relies on a collaborative relationship between external facilitators, internal facilitators and clinical champions. We used formative evaluation (FE) to gather ongoing information about our quality improvement (QI) implementation approach of VTH. Our FE of PIVOT at rural sites provided insight into adaptations to improve rural implementation. This led to development of PIVOT-R, which explicitly focuses on rural implementation. PIVOT-R, developed from provider and patient feedback plus lessons learned during implementation, focuses on rurality as an important diversity factor and addresses relationship building, engaging the site, assessing context and infrastructure and balancing national expectations with site-level goals. During fiscal year 2018 we partnered with a VHA healthcare system in a Western mountain state to pilot the PIVOT-R approach, again using FE which included quantitative and qualitative data collection to evaluate its impact. Results: PIVOT-R effectively increased uptake of VTH for MH care at the healthcare system evaluated. In fiscal year 2019 the percentage of Veterans receiving MH care via VTH at the site was 10 times greater than in fiscal year 2018, matching the mean VHA nationwide percentage and increasing by 43.24% by the end of 2019. Veteran feedback supported a positive experience by users. Conclusions: Inclusion of a comprehensive assessment of the rural system, including infrastructure and resources, greatly improves understanding of a system's specific needs and enables a tailored approach targeting relevant barriers. Our FE suggests the potential of PIVOT-R to increase VTH uptake at other rural locations and reinforces the value of telehealth technology as an important resource for rural sites.

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