Chronic Disease Management for Recently Homeless Veterans: A Clinical Practice Improvement Program to Apply Home Telehealth Technology to a Vulnerable Population

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Background:Although vulnerable populations may benefit from in-home health information technologies (HIT) that promote disease self-management, there is a “digital divide” in which these groups are often unlikely to use such programs. We describe the early phases of applying and testing an existing Veterans Affairs (VA) HIT-care management program, Care Coordination Home Telehealth (CCHT), to recently homeless Veterans in the US Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. Peers were used to support patient participation.Methods:CCHT uses in-home messaging devices to provide health education and daily questions about clinical indicators from chronic illness care guidelines, with patient responses reviewed by VHA nurses. Patients could also receive adjunctive peer support. We used medical record review, Veteran interviews, and staff surveys to “diagnose” barriers to CCHT use, assess program acceptability, explore the role of peer support, and inform future quality improvement.Subjects:Fourteen eligible Veterans in HUD-VASH agreed to CCHT participation. Ten of these Veterans opted to have adjunctive peer support and the other 4 enrolled in CCHT usual care.Results:Although barriers to enrollment/engagement must be addressed, this subset of Veterans in HUD-VASH was satisfied with CCHT. Most Veterans did not require support from peers to engage in CCHT but valued peer social assistance amidst the isolation felt in their scattered-site homes.Conclusions:HIT tools hold promise for in-home care management for recently housed Veterans. Patient-level barriers to enrollment must be addressed in the next steps of quality improvement, testing and evaluating peer-driven CCHT recruitment.

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