The Robley Rex VA is expanding services in its rural health centers in an effort to reach veterans outside the metro area. Physical therapy and occupational therapy is now offered at centers in Carroll County and in Scott County, Indiana.
Since 2007 the VA has increased its effort to reach rural veterans, giving them an opportunity to visit the doctor close to home. Having these services available in more rural areas saves veteran’s time and the VA money, said Shannon Browning, a supervising VA physical and occupational therapist.
The VA pays travel expenses for eligible veterans who travel from rural areas to Louisville’s Robley Rex Center, said Browning. And veterans still get referred to Robley Rex when they could seek services closer to home, she said.
“Generally, in physical therapy we get three to four-hundred consults a month. But Grayson, here’s the catch on this one, Grayson County which is our southernmost out-patient clinic and the farthest away, they’re about a third of our consults,” said Browning.
Grayson County is expected to extend its physical and occupational therapy services sometime within six months to a year, she said. The clinic is currently interviewing for a physical therapist.
Tele-health is also expanding. Veterans can independently or in groups have consultations with mental health doctors and other specialists through videophone. At first, some patients and doctors were skeptical, said Dr. Kevin Pernicano. He recalled one group that had split decisions about the technology.
“And by the end of that particular group they were all just so excited to participate in that. And it was really a wonderful experience to see. It truly expands our ability to reach from para-facility way out in the rural areas,” said Pernicano.
Research shows there’s no difference in care between from face-to-face or tele-health consultations, he said. Robley Rex currently has six units and it received permission to purchase 20 more, he said.