Veterans experiencing homelessness frequently use emergency and urgent care (ED). This article discusses how primary care treatment engagement can reduce ED visits and increase appropriate use of ED services in VHA for Veterans experiencing homelessness.
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.
Gundlapalli, A.V., Redd, A., Bolton, D., Vanneman, M.E., Carter, M.E., 2017. Patient-aligned Care Team Engagement to Connect Veterans Experiencing Homelessness With Appropriate Health Care. Medical Care, 55(9/2), S104-S110.