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Telehealth Use in Rural Healthcare – Models and Innovations

These stories feature model programs and successful rural projects that can serve as a source of ideas and provide lessons others have learned. Some of the projects or programs may no longer be active. Read about the criteria and evidence-base for programs included.

Effective Examples

Rural Telemental Health (RTMH) Program
Updated/reviewed December 2020
  • Need: To provide high-quality mental healthcare to rural veterans.
  • Intervention: The Rural Telemental Health (RTMH) program, stationed at the Portland VA Medical Center, reaches rural veterans in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington via telehealth.
  • Results: From 2010 to 2013, 1,754 veterans received diagnoses, therapy, medication management, and other mental health services.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy Madison Outreach and Services through Telehealth (MOST) Network
Updated/reviewed December 2018
  • Need: More mental health and substance abuse prevention and treatment services in rural Texas.
  • Intervention: A network was formed to bring counseling services through telehealth systems and community health workers to Brazos Valley, Texas.
  • Results: The program improved health outcomes, increased general knowledge of the impact of substance abuse, and raised awareness of services among Hispanic residents.
funded by the Health Resources Services Administration Medical Advocacy & Outreach's Telehealth Services
Updated/reviewed November 2018
  • Need: Rural Alabama residents with HIV/AIDS face stigma, poverty, and transportation barriers, limiting their access to expert HIV/AIDS healthcare.
  • Intervention: Medical Advocacy & Outreach utilizes telemedicine to remove these barriers and offers cost-effective care to rural patients living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Results: This telehealth network has expanded to reach rural patients in 12 Alabama counties. Patients are staying engaged due to its convenience and cost-effective nature.

Promising Examples

funded by the Health Resources Services Administration Learning Exchange Reverse Demonstration (LERD) Model
Updated/reviewed July 2021
  • Need: To make it easier for rural nurses to continue their education by decreasing the need to travel.
  • Intervention: An innovative, online health assessment course used telehealth to allow rural RN-BSN students to demonstrate skills acquisition.
  • Results: Rural participants had similar learning outcomes to those participating in the onsite version of the course, with fewer travel costs, less time away from work, and higher overall satisfaction.
TelePrEP
Updated/reviewed September 2020
  • Need: To prevent new cases of HIV in rural Iowa.
  • Intervention: TelePrEP provides preventive care via telehealth and prescription delivery.
  • Results: Between February 2017 and August 2020, TelePrEP received 456 referrals, with 403 patients completing an initial visit.
funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy SD eResidential Facilities Healthcare Services Access Project
Updated/reviewed August 2020
  • Need: To increase local health services to rural elderly populations in long-term care facilities located in four Midwest states near a tertiary care organization.
  • Intervention: A non-profit healthcare organization implemented telehealth services to provide acute care evaluations for long-term residents in their home facilities.
  • Results: The program increased local care as evidenced by improved year-over-year provider-determined available transfer data: 33%, 50%, 63% program years 1 through 3, respectively. From the success of the initial pilot implementation, the program has further matured into a long-term care offering that now reaches many other rural facilities located in 10 states across the nation.

Other Project Examples

HIV Telehealth Collaborative Care
Updated/reviewed September 2021
  • Need: To increase access to specialty care for rural veterans living with HIV.
  • Intervention: The HIV Telehealth Collaborative Care (TCC) study connects these patients with HIV specialists via clinical video telehealth or VA video connect and works to create shared care relationships with primary care teams in rural areas.
  • Results: The HIV TCC program provides HIV specialty care access to rural veterans in a sustainable manner with infrastructure, mentorship, and capacity building.
ADPH Telehealth Program
Updated/reviewed August 2021
  • Need: To increase access to healthcare throughout Alabama.
  • Intervention: The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) has created telehealth communications at county health departments.
  • Results: ADPH telehealth services are currently available in 65 of 67 county health departments.
Tele-ICU for Veterans
Updated/reviewed June 2021
  • Need: To enhance care for patients in critical condition.
  • Intervention: Two VA facilities in Oklahoma and Ohio are connected through audiovisual equipment using smart technology in order for providers to monitor patients and consult with clinical staff at the bedside.
  • Results: From October 2019 to April 2021, there were 11,058 video assessments performed on ICU patients at the Oklahoma facility by tele-ICU staff. This resulted in 17,578 hours of patient care time.
Mobile Health Units for Opioid Use Disorder Treatment
Added April 2021
  • Need: To bring medication-assisted treatment to rural and underserved areas in Colorado.
  • Intervention: Six mobile health units travel to 32 counties and offer services like telehealth sessions, counseling, naloxone, and referrals to wraparound services.
  • Results: The units traveled more than 100,000 miles from January 2020 to January 2021.

Last Updated: 9/10/2021