Distance is relative: unpacking a principal barrier in rural healthcare.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: Distance to healthcare services is a known barrier to access. However, the degree to which distance is a barrier is not well described. Distance may impact different patients in different ways and be mediated by the context of medical need. OBJECTIVE: Identify factors related to distance that impede access to care for rural veterans. APPROACH: Mixed-methods approach including surveys, in-depth interviews, and focus groups at 15 Veterans Health Administration (VHA) primary care clinics in 8 Midwestern states. Survey data were compiled and interviews transcribed and coded for thematic content. PARTICIPANTS: Surveys were completed by 96 patients and 88 providers/staff. In-depth interviews were completed by 42 patients and 64 providers/staff. A total of 7 focus groups were convened consisting of providers and staff. KEY RESULTS: Distance was identified by patients, providers, and staff as the most important barrier for rural veterans seeking healthcare. In-depth interviews revealed specific examples of barriers to care such as long travel for common diagnostic services, routine specialty care, and emergency services. Patient factors compounding the impact of these barriers were health status, functional impairment, travel cost, and work or family obligations. Providers and staff reported challenges to healthcare delivery due to distance. CONCLUSIONS: Distance as a barrier to healthcare was not uniformly defined. Rather, its importance was relative to the health status and resources of patients, complexity of service provided, and urgency of service needed. Improved transportation, flexible fee-based services, more structured communication mechanisms, and integration with community resources will improve access to care and overall health status for rural veterans.
Project description:BACKGROUND: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) implemented the Polytrauma System of Care to meet the health care needs of military and veterans with multiple injuries returning from combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Studies are needed to systematically assess barriers to use of comprehensive and exclusive VA healthcare services from the perspective of veterans with polytrauma and with other complex health outcomes following their service in Afghanistan and Iraq. These perspectives can inform policy with regard to the optimal delivery of care to returning veterans. METHODS: We studied combat veterans (n = 359) from two polytrauma rehabilitation centers using structured clinical interviews and qualitative open-ended questions, augmented with data collected from electronic health records. Our outcomes included several measures of exclusive utilization of VA care with our primary exposure as reported access barriers to care. RESULTS: Nearly two thirds of the veterans reported one or more barriers to their exclusive use of VA healthcare services. These barriers predicted differences in exclusive use of VA healthcare services. Experiencing any barriers doubled the returnees' odds of not using VA exclusively, the geographic distance to VA barrier resulted in a 7 fold increase in the returnees odds of not using VA, and reporting a wait time barrier doubled the returnee's odds of not using VA. There were no striking differences in access barriers for veterans with polytrauma compared to other returning veterans, suggesting the barriers may be uniform barriers that predict differences in using the VA exclusively for health care. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides an initial description of utilization of VA polytrauma rehabilitation and other medical care for veteran returnees from all military services who were involved in combat operations in Afghanistan or Iraq. Our findings indicate that these veterans reported important stigmatization and barriers to receiving services exclusively from the VA, including mutable health delivery system factors.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Chronic insomnia is among the most reported complaints of Veterans and military personnel referred for mental health services. It is highly comorbid with medical and psychiatric disorders, and is associated with significantly increased healthcare utilization and costs. Evidence-based psychotherapy, namely Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTI), is an effective treatment and recommended over prescription sleep medications. While CBTI is part of a nationwide rollout in the Veterans Health Administration to train hundreds of providers, access to treatment is still limited for many Veterans due to limited treatment availability, low patient and provider knowledge about treatment options, and Veteran barriers such as distance and travel, work schedules, and childcare. Uptake of a briefer, more primary-care-friendly treatment into routine clinical care in Veterans Affairs (VA) primary care settings, where insomnia is typically first recognized and diagnosed, may effectively and efficiently increase access to effective insomnia interventions and help decrease the risks and burdens related to chronic insomnia. METHODS:This hybrid type I trial is composed of two aims. The first preliminarily tests the clinical non-inferiority of Brief Behavioral Treatment for Insomnia (BBTI) versus the current "gold standard" treatment, CBTI. The second is a qualitative needs assessment, guided by the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR), to identify potential factors that may affect successful implementation and integration of behavioral treatments for insomnia in the primary care setting. To identify potential implementation factors, individual interviews are conducted with the Veterans who participate in the clinical trial, as well as VA primary care providers and nursing staff. DISCUSSION:It is increasingly important to better understand barriers to, and facilitators of, implementing insomnia interventions in order to ensure that Veterans have the best access to care. Furthermore, it is important to evaluate the potential for new avenues of treatment delivery, like BBTI in the primary care setting, which can benefit Veterans who may not have adequate access to specialty mental health providers trained in CBTI. TRIAL REGISTRATION:ClinicalTrials.gov, ID: NCT02724800 . Registered on 31 March 2016.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Key barriers to healthcare use in rural Ghana include those of economic, social, cultural and institutional. Amid this, though rarely recognised in Ghanaian healthcare settings, mHealth technology has emerged as a viable tool for lessening most healthcare barriers in rural areas due to the high mobile phone penetration and possession rate. This qualitative study provides an exploratory assessment of the role of mHealth in reducing healthcare barriers in rural areas from the perspective of healthcare users and providers. METHOD:Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 30 conveniently selected healthcare users and 15 purposively selected healthcare providers within the Birim South District in the Eastern Region of Ghana between June 2017 and April 2018. Data were thematically analysed and normative standpoints of participants were presented as quotations. RESULTS:The main findings were that all the healthcare users had functioning mobile phones, however, their knowledge and awareness about mHealth was low. Meanwhile, rural health care users and providers were willing to use mHealth services involving phone call in the future as they perceived the technology to play an important role in lessening healthcare barriers. Nevertheless, factors such as illiteracy, language barrier, trust, quality of care, and mobile network connectivity were perceived as barriers associated with using mHealth in rural Ghana. CONCLUSION:The support for mHealth service is an opportunity for the development of synergistic relationship between health policy planners and mobile network companies in Ghana to design efficient communication and connectivity networks, accessible, localised, user-friendly and cost-effective mobile phone-based health programmes to assist in reducing healthcare barriers in rural Ghana.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Awareness of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) as a problem among military personnel (serving and veterans) has grown in recent years, and there is a need for research to inform improvements in the identification of and response to DVA in this population. This study aimed to explore the experience of health and welfare professionals in identifying and responding to DVA among the UK military population (serving personnel and veterans). METHODS:Thirty-five semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with health and welfare staff who work with serving UK military personnel and veterans. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. RESULTS:Three superordinate themes were identified: i) patterns of DVA observed by health and welfare workers (perceived gender differences in DVA experiences and role of mental health and alcohol); (ii) barriers to identification of and response to DVA (attitudinal/knowledge-based barriers and practical barriers), and iii) resource issues (training needs and access to services). Participants discussed how factors such as a culture of hypermasculinity, under-reporting of DVA, the perception of DVA as a "private matter" among military personnel, and lack of knowledge and awareness of emotional abuse and coercive controlling behaviour as abuse constitute barriers to identification and management of DVA. Healthcare providers highlighted the need for more integrated working between civilian and military services, to increase access to support and provide effective care to both victims and perpetrators. Furthermore, healthcare and welfare staff reflected on their training needs in the screening and management of DVA to improve practice. CONCLUSIONS:There is a need for increased awareness of DVA, particularly of non-physical forms of abuse, and of male victimisation in the military. Standardised protocols for DVA management and systematic training are required to promote a consistent and appropriate response to DVA. There is a particular training need among healthcare and first-line welfare staff, who are largely relied upon to identify cases of DVA in the military. Employing DVA advocates within military and civilian healthcare settings may be useful in improving DVA awareness, management and access to specialist support.
Project description:Incarcerated transgender individuals may need to access physical and mental health services to meet their general and gender-affirming (e.g., hormones, surgery) medical needs while incarcerated.This study sought to examine correctional healthcare providers' knowledge of, attitudes toward, and experiences providing care to transgender inmates.In 2016, 20 correctional healthcare providers (e.g., physicians, social workers, psychologists, mental health counselors) from New England participated in in-depth, semi-structured interviews examining their experiences caring for transgender inmates. The interview guide drew on healthcare-related interviews with recently incarcerated transgender women and key informant interviews with correctional healthcare providers and administrators. Data were analyzed using a modified grounded theory framework and thematic analysis.Findings revealed that transgender inmates do not consistently receive adequate or gender-affirming care while incarcerated. Factors at the structural level (i.e., lack of training, restrictive healthcare policies, limited budget, and an unsupportive prison culture); interpersonal level (i.e., custody staff bias); and individual level (i.e., lack of transgender cultural and clinical competence) impede correctional healthcare providers' ability to provide gender-affirming care to transgender patients. These factors result in negative health consequences for incarcerated transgender patients.Results call for transgender-specific healthcare policy changes and the implementation of transgender competency trainings for both correctional healthcare providers and custody staff (e.g., officers, lieutenants, wardens).
Project description:Providing services to rural dwelling minority cultural groups with serious chronic disease is challenging due to access to care and cultural differences. This study aimed to describe service providers' perspectives on health services delivery for Aboriginal people receiving haemodialysis for end-stage kidney disease in rural Australia.Semistructured interviews, thematic analysisA health district in rural New South Wales, AustraliaUsing purposive sampling, 29 renal and allied service providers were recruited, including nephrologists, renal nurses, community nurses, Aboriginal health workers, social workers and managers. Six were Aboriginal and 23 non-Aboriginal.Improving cultural understanding within the healthcare system was central to five themes identified: rigidity of service design (outreach, inevitable home treatment failures, pressure of system overload, limited efficacy of cultural awareness training and conflicting priorities in acute care); responding to social complexities (respecting but challenged by family obligations, assumptions about socioeconomic status and individualised care); promoting empowerment, trust and rapport (bridging gaps in cultural understanding, acknowledging the relationship between land, people and environment, and being time poor); distress at late diagnosis (lost opportunities and prioritise prevention); and contending with discrimination and racism (inherent judgement of lifestyle choices, inadequate cultural awareness, pervasive multilevel institutionalised racism and managing patient distrust).Service providers believe current services are not designed to address cultural needs and Aboriginality, and that caring for Aboriginal patients receiving haemodialysis should be family focused and culturally safer. An Aboriginal-specific predialysis pathway, building staff cultural awareness and enhancing cultural safety within hospitals are the measures recommended. Increasing patient support for home haemodialysis may improve health and the quality of care outcomes.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:We aim to explore the barriers to accessing modern healthcare services in two tribal populations in Assam. METHODS:In March 2018, we conducted qualitative research through 60 in-depth interviews with men and women aged 15 to 50 from Bodo and Rabha tribes in Udalguri and Baksa districts of Assam. We interviewed a group of health-service providers from public health facilities to understand the demand-supply balance in those facilities. FINDINGS:On the demand side, direct and indirect financial obstacles, distance to health facilities, poor public transportation, perceived negative behavior of hospital staff, and lack of infrastructure were the main barriers to utilizing healthcare facilities. On the supply side, doctors and nurses in government health facilities were overburdened by demand due to a lack of human resources. CONCLUSIONS:Our study highlights the barriers to utilizing health facilities; these are not always driven by factors linked to the patient's socio-economic status but also depend significantly on the quality of the health services and other contextual factors. Although the government has made efforts to improve the rural healthcare system through national-level programs, our qualitative study shows that these programs have not been successful in enhancing the rural healthcare system in the study area.
Project description:INTRODUCTION:Access to high-quality healthcare, including mental healthcare, is a high priority for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Meaningful monitoring of progress will require patient-centered measures of access. To that end, we developed the Perceived Access Inventory focused on access to VA mental health services (PAI-VA). However, VA is purchasing increasing amounts of mental health services from community mental health providers. In this paper, we describe the development of a PAI for users of VA-funded community mental healthcare that incorporates access barriers unique to community care service use and compares the barriers most frequently reported by veterans using community mental health services to those most frequently reported by veterans using VA mental health services. MATERIALS AND METHODS:We conducted mixed qualitative and quantitative interviews with 25 veterans who had experience using community mental health services through the Veterans Choice Program (VCP). We used opt-out invitation letters to recruit veterans from three geographic regions. Data were collected on sociodemographics, rurality, symptom severity, and service satisfaction. Participants also completed two measures of perceived barriers to mental healthcare: the PAI-VA adapted to focus on access to mental healthcare in the community and Hoge's 13-item measure. This study was reviewed and approved by the VA Central Institutional Review Board. RESULTS:Analysis of qualitative interview data identified four topics that were not addressed in the PAI-VA: veterans being billed directly by a VCP mental health provider, lack of care coordination and communication between VCP and VA mental health providers, veterans needing to travel to a VA facility to have VCP provider prescriptions filled, and delays in VCP re-authorization. To develop a PAI for community-care users, we created items corresponding to each of the four community-care-specific topics and added them to the 43-item PAI-VA. When we compared the 10 most frequently endorsed barriers to mental healthcare in this study sample to the ten most frequently endorsed by a separate sample of current VA mental healthcare users, six items were common to both groups. The four items unique to community-care were: long waits for the first mental health appointment, lack of awareness of available mental health services, short appointments, and providers' lack of knowledge of military culture. CONCLUSIONS:Four new barriers specific to veteran access to community mental healthcare were identified. These barriers, which were largely administrative rather than arising from the clinical encounter itself, were included in the PAI for community care. Study strengths include capturing access barriers from the veteran experience across three geographic regions. Weaknesses include the relatively small number of participants and data collection from an early stage of Veteran Choice Program implementation. As VA expands its coverage of community-based mental healthcare, being able to assess the success of the initiative from the perspective of program users becomes increasingly important. The 47-item PAI for community care offers a useful tool to identify barriers experienced by veterans in accessing mental healthcare in the community, overall and in specific settings, as well as to track the impact of interventions to improve access to mental healthcare.
Project description:OBJECTIVE:This study aimed to explore the challenges encountered by patients and healthcare providers and opportunities for improvement in managing diabetes mellitus (DM) in a low- and middle-income country (LMIC) facing a rise in DM prevalence. DESIGN:Qualitative cross-sectional study. SETTING:Urban, semiurban, and rural areas in Cambodia. PARTICIPANTS:Thirty health service providers and fifty-nine adult DM patients. RESULTS:Most of the 59?DM patients reported having developed DM complications when they first sought treatment. The biggest challenges for the patients were geographical barriers, diet control, and shortage of medication supply. The healthcare staff expressed concerns about their limited knowledge and lack of confidence to treat diabetes, limited availability of diabetes care services, inadequate laboratory services, shortage of staff, poor patients' compliance, and insufficient medication supplies. Both healthcare staff and patients urged an expansion of diabetes services in Cambodia and prioritisation of diabetes care in a manner similar to communicable disease control programmes of the recent past. CONCLUSIONS:Currently, the Cambodian healthcare system has very limited capacity to provide quality care for chronic diseases. As a consequence, many patients are either left untreated or have interrupted care due to several barriers including financial, geographical, and lack of knowledge and skills. A more comprehensive and multipronged approach is urgently needed to improve DM care, which would require a collaborative effort from government, external funding agencies, private sector, and communities.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Chronic lung diseases, such as COPD, are a growing health concern within the veteran population. Palliative care programs have mainly focused on the needs of people with malignant disease in the past, however the majority of those worldwide needing palliative care have a non-malignant diagnosis. Additionally, palliative care provision can often be fragmented and varied dependent upon a patient's geographical location. This study aimed to explore palliative care provision for veterans with non-malignant respiratory disease, and their family carers, living in a rural area of America. METHODS:Qualitative study involving a convenience sample of 16 healthcare professionals from a large veteran hospital in Boise, Idaho. Data collection consisted of 5 focus groups which were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis. RESULTS:Healthcare professionals perceived that a lack of education regarding disease progression enhanced feelings of anxiety amongst veterans with NMRD, and their family carers. Additionally, the uncertain disease trajectory impeded referral to palliative and hospice services due to healthcare professionals own ambiguity regarding the veteran's prognosis. A particular barrier also related to this particular patient population, was a perceived lack of ability to afford relevant services and a lack of local palliative service provision. Healthcare professionals expressed that a compounding factor to palliative care uptake was the perceptions held by the veteran population. Healthcare professionals expressed that alongside aligning palliative care with dying, veterans also viewed accepting palliative care as 'surrendering' to their disease. Findings indicated that telemedicine may be a beneficial platform to which palliative care can be provided to veterans with NMRD, and their family carers, in rural areas using a digital platform. CONCLUSION:Non-malignant respiratory disease is a life limiting condition commonly experienced within the veteran population. A new model of palliative care utilising a dynamic digital platform for this particular veteran population may provide an optimal way of providing efficient holistic care to areas with limited palliative services.