242191 Rural health communications strategies and MyHealtheVet outreach project

Monday, October 31, 2011

Ryung Suh, MD MPH MPP MBA , Department of Health Systems Administration, SNHS, Georgetown University, Vienna, VA
Mark Chichester, JD , Atlas Research LLC, Washington, DC
Wendy Opsahl, MA , Atlas Research LLC, Washington, DC
Megan Weibye , Atlas Research, Washington, DC
Brian Barclay , Atlas Research, Washington, DC
Jeff Baetz, PMP , Atlas Research LLC, Washington, DC
1. Background: The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has long been a pioneer in health information technology; however, many of VA's health information resources, including the My HealtheVet electronic personal health record, are underutilized by rural Veterans.

2. Objective: The initiative aims to improve access and quality of care for rural Veterans through the development of a rural communications strategy and My HealtheVet expansion, increasing rural Veteran's access to relevant VA health care information and resources.

3. Methods: Through detailed analysis of Internet usage, Veteran demographics, market penetration, and preferred methods of health care information access throughout VISN 5, a baseline assessment deepened understanding of how rural Veterans utilize both the Internet and VA health services. The project team developed a strategic communications and outreach strategy, with the goal of expanding rural Veterans' access to VA information and resources, and enrollment in VA services.

4. Results: Because of the wide range of age, income, and other demographic factors of rural Veterans in VISN 5, both traditional and new media strategies are included in this multi-channeled communications strategy. Community meetings and events are a primary tactic for enrolling Veterans. The strategy incorporates tailored messages for target audiences, taking into account health literacy, exchange, and evidence-based practices to bolster and enhance targeted and relevant information to VISN 5 rural Veterans. Multiple forms and methods of communication are employed in order to reach all demographics of the rural Veterans living within VISN 5.

5. Conclusion: This evidence-based outreach project highlights the challenges in expanding access to, and the availability of, information concerning health issues for Veterans living within rural areas. The project provides innovative and customized solutions to these challenges in order to reach Veterans at the local community and individual level, and may inform outreach efforts in other regions of the country.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics

Learning Objectives:
1. By the end of the session, the participant will be able to explain the current communications connectivity of rural Veterans including internet access, usage patterns, and current VA market penetration within VISN 5. 2. By the end of the session, the participant will be able to identify methods to expand access and usage of MyHealtheVet among rural Veterans. 3. By the end of the session, the participant will be able to describe how to improve access and care for rural Veterans through an effective rural communications outreach strategy.

Keywords: Communication Evaluation, Rural Populations

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Principal investigator
Any relevant financial relationships? Yes

Name of Organization Clinical/Research Area Type of relationship
Atlas Research Management Consulting Employment (includes retainer) and Stock Ownership

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.