Iowa City VA Telehospital Medicine Program awarded ORH funding for nationwide expansion

The following is an announcement from the Iowa City VA Health Care System.

The Telehospital Medicine Program (Tele-HM Program), which has provided services since 2019 to five rural hospitals in the midwest, has been awarded $1.5 million in national funding from the Office of Rural Health to revolutionize health care access for veterans nationwide. The initiative is set to improve the availability of hospital medicine specialty care for veterans admitted to rural VA hospitals by employing a unique team-based care model composed of local providers—Advanced Practice Providers (APPs), nurses, social workers, and other ancillary services—at the distant sites, and experienced telehospitalists from the Iowa City hub.

This project deploys telehealth methods to bridge the quality and access gap between rural veterans and highly skilled hospital medicine specialists. This allows veterans to be admitted to local facilities and remain close to home with the associated social support. Combining telemedicine technology with skilled APPs at rural sites, the Tele-HM Program significantly expands the reach of hospital medicine specialty care to rural areas.

Key benefits of the program include:

  1. Enhanced Specialty Care Access: Rural veterans admitted to rural and low-complexity VA hospitals will now have increased access to hospital medicine specialty care without the need for long-distance travel.
  2. Real-Time Consultations: Through telemedicine, VA clinicians at the rural, spoke sites can collaborate seamlessly with hospital specialists, ensuring prompt and efficient consultations, diagnosis, and treatment.
  3. Patient-Centered Care: The model emphasizes patient comfort and convenience, reducing the burden of travel and providing timely and effective interventions closer to home.
  4. Cost-Effectiveness: By using telemedicine and optimizing the use of APPs with continuous physician support, the program promotes cost-effective care delivery without compromising on quality. Furthermore, it increases rural health care capacity and reduces unnecessary transfers to tertiary care centers.
  5. Supports local providers: This program allows providers to receive training and mentorship at their local sites, helps with recruitment and retention, and promotes collaborative care teams, which improve patient outcomes.

The Telehospitalist Service not only adds value to our veterans’ care, but in fact they are IN-valuable. There were times when we would not have been able to provide inpatient care at all due to lack of qualified providers.

Mark Kadowaki, MD, Chief of Staff, Iron Mountain VAMC

I found the process of examination of and the collaboration of the inpatients to be thorough, comprehensive and safe . . . I felt extremely supported, valued, and respected. Not only did the Telehospitalist physicians work collaboratively with me but also mentored and taught me along the way.

Steven Sullivan, APRN, Tomah VAMC

I very much enjoyed working with the Iowa City Physicians. I found them to be readily available, very flexible, extremely competent, and a pleasure to work with.

Erin Daly, APRN, Chief of Medicine, Iron Mountain VAMC

The successful implementation of the Tele-HM Program has led to its endorsement for replication at other VA facilities nationwide. The model’s potential to bridge the gap in health care access for rural veterans and its demonstrated efficiency make it a promising solution for delivering specialized care in remote areas.

The program is a testament to the VA’s commitment to providing top-notch health care services to all veterans, regardless of their location. The funding secured for this initiative marks a significant step forward in our mission to ensure that no veteran is left behind.

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