Patient-aligned Care Team Engagement to Connect Veterans Experiencing Homelessness With Appropriate Health Care

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Abstract

Background:

Veterans experiencing homelessness frequently use emergency and urgent care (ED).

Objective:

To examine the effect of a Patient-aligned Care Team (PACT) model tailored to the unique needs of Veterans experiencing homelessness (H-PACT) on frequency and type of ED visits in Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical facilities.

Research Design:

During a 12-month period, ED visits for 3981 homeless Veterans enrolled in (1) H-PACT at 20 VHA medical centers (enrolled) were compared with those of (2) 24,363 homeless Veterans not enrolled in H-PACT at the same sites (nonenrolled), and (3) 23,542 homeless Veterans at 12 non-H-PACT sites (usual care) using a difference-in-differences approach.

Measure(s):

The primary outcome was ED and other health care utilization and the secondary outcome was emergent (not preventable/avoidable) ED visits.

Results:

H-PACT enrollees were predominantly white males with a higher baseline Charlson comorbidity index. In comparing H-PACT enrollees with usual care, there was a significant decrease in ED usage among the highest ED utilizers (difference-in-differences, −4.43; P<0.001). The decrease in ED visits were significant though less intense for H-PACT enrollees versus nonenrolled (−0.29, P<0.001). H-PACT enrollees demonstrated a significant increase in the proportion of ED care visits that were not preventable/avoidable in the 6 months after enrollment, but had stable rates of primary care, mental health, social work, and substance abuse visits over the 12 months.

Conclusions:

Primary care treatment engagement can reduce ED visits and increase appropriate use of ED services in VHA for Veterans experiencing homelessness, especially in the highest ED utilizers.

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