PURPOSE:As the largest integrated health care system in the United States, the Veterans Health Administration (VA) is a leader in telehealth-delivered care. All 10 million Veterans cared for within the VA are eligible for telehealth. The VA cares for approximately 46,000 Veteran patients with newly diagnosed cancer and an estimated 400,000 prevalent cases annually. With nearly 38% of VA health care system users residing in rural areas and only 44% of rural counties having an oncologist, many Veterans lack local access to specialized cancer services.METHODS:We describe the VA's National TeleOncology (NTO) Service. NTO was established to provide Veterans with the opportunity for specialized treatment regardless of geographical location. Designed as a hub-and-spoke model, VA oncologists from across the country can provide care to patients at spoke sites. Spoke sites are smaller and rural VA medical centers that are less able to independently provide the full range of services available at larger facilities. In addition to smaller rural spoke sites, NTO also provides subspecialized oncology care to Veterans located in larger VA medical facilities that do not have subspecialties available or that have limited capacity.RESULTS:As of fiscal year 2021, 23 clinics are served by or engaged in planning for delivery of NTO and there are 24 physicians providing care through the NTO virtual hub. Most NTO physicians continue to provide patient care in separate traditional in-person clinics. Approximately 4,300 unique Veterans have used NTO services. Approximately half (52%) of Veterans using NTO lived in rural areas. Most of these Veterans had more than one remote visit through NTO.CONCLUSION:NTO is a state-of-the-art model that has the potential to revolutionize the way cancer care is delivered, which should improve the experience of Veterans receiving cancer care.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy