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Telerehabilitation for Rural Veterans: A Qualitative Assessment of Barriers and Facilitators to Implementation

Authors Hale-Gallardo JL, Kreider CM, Jia H, Castaneda G, Freytes IM, Cowper Ripley DC, Ahonle ZJ, Findley K, Romero S

Received 25 January 2020

Accepted for publication 7 May 2020

Published 1 July 2020 Volume 2020:13 Pages 559—570


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Jennifer L Hale-Gallardo,1 Consuelo M Kreider,2,3 Huanguang Jia,1 Gail Castaneda,2 I Magaly Freytes,1 Diane C Cowper Ripley,2 Zaccheus J Ahonle,3 Kimberly Findley,1 Sergio Romero1,2

1Department of Veterans Affairs, North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, Gainesville, Florida, USA; 2Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Rural Health Resource Center–Gainesville, Office of Rural Health, Gainesville, Florida, USA; 3Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA

Correspondence: Sergio Romero
Veterans Rural Health Resource Center – Gainesville, North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System, 1601 S.W. Archer Road, Gainesville, Florida 32608, USA
Tel +1 352-264-3845

Purpose: Telerehabilitation (TR) is increasingly being used to meet the rehabilitation needs of individuals living in rural areas. Nevertheless, reports on TR implementation for rural patients remain limited. As part of a broader evaluation, this study investigated barriers and facilitators to the implementation of a national TR program to meet the needs of rural Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patients.
Methods: This study applied a qualitative approach to the RE-AIM framework to investigate barriers and facilitators impacting TR implementation. We conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with ten program managers and medical directors within the VHA at three time points during the first 18 months of implementation. Interviews were analyzed using thematic analysis.
Results: Three themes were identified describing key cultural, infrastructural and logistical, and environmental barriers impacting the reach, adoption, and implementation of TR. Within the themes, facilitators for TR were also identified to include, allowing providers flexibility in implementing TR, mentorship and development of creative approaches to TR training, overcoming infrastructural and logistical TR barriers through championing, and continuous sharing of lessons learned in a community of practice.
Discussion: This study explicates salient barriers and facilitators encountered during the first 18 months of implementation of a TR program within a national healthcare system in the United States. Implementing TR to meet the rehabilitation needs of Veterans in resource-limited rural environments requires creative approaches and flexibility, as well as perseverance and consistent championing in order to overcome cultural challenges. This, in combination with infrastructural challenges, such as lack of broadband, adds greater complexity to meeting the needs of rural patients. This study provides new and in-depth understanding of the processes by which TR is implemented in a large healthcare system and points to practical real-world lessons in implementing TR for rural patients.

Keywords: telemedicine, health, culture, technology, evaluation, implementation science

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