Research on Rural Veterans: An Analysis of the Literature

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ContextThe Veterans Health Administration (VA) provides comprehensive health care services to veterans across the United States. Recently, the VA established an Office of Rural Health to address the health care needs of rural veterans.PurposeTo review the literature on rural veterans' health care needs in order to identify areas for future research.MethodsWe conducted a literature review of articles listed in the Medline, CINAHL, and BIOSIS datasets since 1950. We reviewed and summarized the findings of 50 articles that specifically examined rural veterans.FindingsThe literature on rural veterans included 4 articles examining access to care, 7 evaluating distance technology, 4 examining new models of care delivery, 11 studying rural veterans' patient characteristics, 10 evaluating programs provided in a rural setting, 6 examining rural health care settings, and 8 exploring rural veterans' health services utilization patterns. Most studies were small, based on data obtained before 2000, and consisted of uncontrolled, retrospective, descriptive studies of health care provided in rural VA settings. Definitions of rural were inconsistent, and in 20% of the articles examined the rural aspect of the setting was incidental to the study.ConclusionsThe literature on rural veterans' health care needs warrants expansion and investment so that policy makers can make informed decisions in an environment of limited resources and competing interests.

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