Introduction: Older, chronically ill patients with limited health literacy are often under-engagedin managing their health and turn to the emergency department (ED) for healthcare needs. Wetested the impact of an ED-initiated coaching intervention on patient engagement and follow-updoctor visits in this high-risk population. We also explored patients’ care-seeking decisions.
Methods: We conducted a mixed-methods study including a randomized controlled trial andin-depth interviews in two EDs in northern Florida. Participants were chronically ill older EDpatients with limited health literacy and Medicare as a payer source. Patients were assignedto an evidence-based coaching intervention (n= 35) or usual post-ED care (n= 34). Qualitativeinterviews (n=9) explored patients’ reasons for ED use. We assessed average between-groupdifferences in patient engagement over time with the Patient Activation Measure (PAM) tool,using logistic regression and a difference-in-difference approach. Between-group differences infollow-up doctor visits were determined. We analyzed qualitative data using open coding andthematic analysis.
Results: PAM scores fell in both groups after the ED visit but fell signi ficantly more in “usualcare” (average decline -4.64) than “intervention” participants (average decline -2.77) (β=1.87,p=0.043). There were no between-group differences in doctor visits. Patients described wellinformedreasons for ED visits including onset and severity of symptoms, lack of timely provideraccess, and immediate and comprehensive ED care.
Conclusion: The coaching intervention significantly reduced declines in pati ent engagementobserved after usual post-ED care. Patients reported well-informed reasons for ED use andwill likely continue to make ED visits unless strategies, such as ED-initiated coaching, areimplemented to help vulnerable patients better manage their health and healthcare.