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Cusack M, Montgomery AE, Harris T, Roncarati J, Brecht T, Antonellis C, Byrne T, Tsai J, True G. Providers' reflections on infrastructure and improvements to promote access to care for Veterans experiencing housing instability in rural areas of the United States: A qualitative study. Health & Social Care in The Community. 2022 Nov 1; 30(6):e6356-e6365.
Veterans in rural areas of the United States face barriers to accessing healthcare and other services, which are intensified for those experiencing housing instability. Recent legislative acts have the potential to address obstacles faced by rural patients in the U.S. This study explores how infrastructure-including features related to the physical and digital environment-impacts the ability of rural Veterans experiencing housing instability to access healthcare and related services from the perspective of homeless service providers within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). We conducted semi-structured telephone interviews (n = 22) with providers in high/low performing and/or resourced communities across the U.S. in May and June 2021 and analysed transcripts using template analysis. Themes described by providers highlight how infrastructure limitations in rural areas can exacerbate health disparities for Veterans experiencing housing instability, the impact of COVID-19 on service access, and recommendations to enhance service delivery. Providers suggested that VHA reconfigure where and how staff work, identify additional resources for transportation and/or alternative transportation models, and increase Veterans' access to technology and broadband Internet. Federal infrastructure investments should address challenges faced by Veterans experiencing housing instability in rural areas and the concerns of providers connecting them with care.