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Improving Health Care Access for Veterans

Limited access to high-quality medical care is one of the major barriers to improving veteran care. To find solutions to this and other health care equity issues, the Veterans Health Administration has funded 19 Centers of Innovation (COINs) across the United States. Charleston’s COIN, the Health Equity and Rural Outreach Innovation Center (HEROIC), which received funding in May 2013, is directed by Leonard E. Egede, M.D., the Allen H. Johnson Endowed Chair and Professor of Medicine, MUSC College of Medicine. Kenneth Ruggiero, PhD, Professor and Director of Research Coordination at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences’ National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center, serves as the Associate Director.

They will lead a team of 18 investigators who share appointments at MUSC and the Ralph H. Johnson Veterans Administration Medical Center to study the factors that influence medical and psychiatric health care access for veterans.

A key focus of their research will be how telehealth can be used to improve access to veteran care in rural areas. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us to identify the most effective technology-based approaches to improving health outcomes for veterans,” says Dr. Egede. The investigators will test a variety of mobile technology tools, such as devices used in homes (smartphones, tablets, and computers with cameras) and in physicians’ offices (videoconferencing). HEROIC’s research will be conducted among veterans in South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. (Adapted from an article in MUSC’s Catalyst.)