Culturally Centered Implementation of Video Telehealth for Rural Native Veterans

Telemed J E Health. 2023 Dec;29(12):1870-1877. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2022.0506. Epub 2023 Apr 19.


Introduction: Native American Veterans are the most rural and experience heightened risk for mental health (MH) challenges while facing significant health care inequities and access barriers. Rural Native Veterans (RNVs) have experienced historical loss and racial discrimination, contributing to mistrust of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and other Federal systems. Telemedicine, including video telehealth (VTH), can improve access to MH care for RNVs by addressing barriers. Understanding the cultural context and existing community resources can improve engagement and implementation efforts with RNVs. Objective: This article describes a model of culturally centered MH care and a flexible implementation approach, Personalized Implementation of Virtual Treatments for Rural Native Veterans (PIVOT-RNV), used to disseminate the model. Methods: Participants included four VHA sites serving large RNV populations where PIVOT-RNV was applied to expand the availability of virtual solutions, including VTH, for RNVs. A mixed methods formative evaluation tracked VTH utilization and used provider and RNV feedback to inform iterative process improvements. Results: Where PIVOT-RNV was used, number of providers using VTH with RNVs, number of unique RNVs receiving MH care through VTH, and number of VTH encounters with RNVs grew annually. Provider and RNV feedback highlighted the importance of addressing the unique barriers and cultural context of RNVs. Conclusions: PIVOT-RNV demonstrates promise for improving implementation of virtual treatments and access to MH care for RNVs. The integration of implementation science within a cultural safety framework helps address specific barriers to adoption of virtual treatments for RNVs. Next steps include expanding PIVOT-RNV efforts at additional sites.

Keywords: Native American; Native Veterans; diversity equity and inclusion; implementation; mental health; rural; telemedicine; veteran; video telehealth; virtual treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Mental Health Services*
  • Telemedicine* / methods
  • Veterans Health
  • Veterans* / psychology