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VA Maryland Health Care System

 

Rural Health Care: Beyond Bricks and Mortar

Health Outreach Coordinator Steve Leaphart attends community, faith-based, and Veteran Service Organization events to help Veterans in rural areas connect to their VA health care benefits.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rural Health Care: With technology and community based outpatient clinics, the VA Maryland Health Care System extends health care benefits to Veterans in rural areas.

Male and female Veterans from geographically rural areas make up a disproportionate share of service members and comprise about 39 percent of the enrolled Veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan; many of whom are returning to their rural communities. Veterans living in rural areas are challenged by the lack of transportation services, communication assets, non-institutional resources and community support systems. To better serve the needs of Veterans in rural areas, the VA created the Office of Rural Health in 2007.

Locally, the VA Maryland Health Care System is reaching out to Veterans living in rural areas in a variety of ways, including expanding access to care by using technology to link Veterans to health care providers, regardless of the distance. Programs under the TeleHealth umbrella, such as TeleMental Health, TeleMOVE! Weight Loss and Home TeleHealth enables Veterans in rural areas to access health care from the VA Maryland Health Care System without having to travel long distances. Using technology, video links and phones, TeleMental Health provides Veterans access to mental health services and enables VA clinicians to extend health care beyond brick and mortar facilities. With TeleMental Health, an array of mental health issues—ranging from post-combat care to geriatric care—can be addressed by VA physicians and clinicians, which helps save Veterans time and the costs associated with traveling long distances. Technology associated with the TeleMOVE! Weight Loss program helps Veterans struggling to implement healthy lifestyle changes from their own homes. The Home TeleHealth program provides daily monitoring of Veterans with chronic conditions in the comfort of their own homes. There are currently 66 Veterans throughout Maryland’s Eastern Shore who utilize VA provided Home Telehealth technology to send information such as blood pressure, weight, pulse oximetry and blood glucose levels daily for monitoring, evaluation and intervention (when needed) by a VA Care Coordinator.

A newly created Rural Outreach Coordinator position for Maryland’s Eastern Shore attends community, faith-based and veteran service organization events to help Veterans in rural areas connect to their VA health care benefits. Other programs that aid Veterans in rural areas include a Home Based Primary Care Program and a corps of volunteers who provide home-based respite support for caregivers.

Additionally, the VA Maryland Health Care System operates two community based outpatient clinics on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to serve the health care needs of Veterans residing in rural areas. The Cambridge and Pocomoke City VA Outpatient Clinics help to bring VA health directly into local communities on the Eastern Shore and allow Veterans to receive primary care services close to where they live and work. These two community based outpatient clinics provide general outpatient care, preventive health and education services, various medical screenings, social work and mental health clinics, and referrals to specialized programs in the VA Maryland Health Care System or through contract services with local providers. To contact the Cambridge VA Outpatient Clinic, Veterans can call (410) 228-6242. To contact the Pocomoke City VA Outpatient Clinic, Veterans can call (410) 957-6718.

A free curb-to-curb transportation service was recently introduced by the VA Maryland Health Care System to support Veterans on the Eastern Shore who need transportation to the Cambridge VA Outpatient Clinic. The shuttle serves Veteran patients referred by their VA provider or social worker and who are making below minimum income levels, have a catastrophic illness, qualify for VA beneficiary travel and do not have any other transportation resources. Wheelchair vehicles are also available as a part of this free curb-to-curb shuttle service. To schedule a pick-up, Veterans should call (410) 228-6243, ext. 4167 at least two weeks in advance of their scheduled clinic appointment. 

To enroll for VA health care, Veterans can visit the Cambridge or Pocomoke City VA Outpatient Clinics; contact the Eligibility & Enrollment Center for the VA Maryland Health Care System at 1-800-463-6295, ext. 7324; or visit the VA website at www.maryland.va.gov and click on "Become a Patient."

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