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Toward the development of national telehealth services: the role of Veterans Health Administration and future directions for research.

Tuerk PW, Fortney J, Bosworth HB, Wakefield B, Ruggiero KJ, Acierno R, Frueh BC. Toward the development of national telehealth services: the role of Veterans Health Administration and future directions for research. Telemedicine journal and e-health : the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association. 2010 Jan 1; 16(1):115-7.

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The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) in the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) has emerged as a national and international leader in the delivery and research of telehealth-based treatment. Several unique characteristics of care in VA settings intersect to create an ideal environment for telehealth modalities and research. However, the value of telehealth experience and initiatives in VA settings is limited if telehealth strategies cannot be widely exported to other public or private systems. Whereas a hierarchical organization, such as VA, can innovate and fund change relatively quickly based on provider and patient preferences and a growing knowledge base, other health provider organizations and third-party payers may likely require replicable scientific findings over time before incremental investments will be made to create infrastructure, reform regulatory barriers, and amend laws to accommodate expansion of telehealth modalities. Accordingly, large-scale scientifically rigorous telehealth research in VHA settings is essential not only to investigate the efficacy of existing and future telehealth practices in VHA, but also to hasten the development of telehealth infrastructure in private and other public health settings. We propose an expanded partnership between the VA, NIH, and other funding agencies to investigate creative and pragmatic uses of telehealth technology. To this end, we identify six specific areas of research we believe to be particularly relevant to the efficient development of telehealth modalities in civilian and military contexts outside VHA.

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