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Integrating Interprofessional Trainees into a Complex Care Program for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness: Effects on Health Services Utilization.

  • Author(s): Gelberg, Lillian;
  • Edwards, Samuel T;
  • Hooker, Elizabeth R;
  • Niederhausen, Meike;
  • Shaner, Andrew;
  • Cowan, Brianna J;
  • Warde, Carole M
  • et al.
Abstract

Purpose

High-quality, comprehensive care of vulnerable populations requires interprofessional ambulatory care teams skilled in addressing complex social, medical, and psychological needs. Training health professionals in interprofessional settings is crucial for building a competent future workforce. The impacts on care utilization of adding continuity trainees to ambulatory teams serving vulnerable populations have not been described. We aim to understand how the addition of interprofessional trainees to an ambulatory clinic caring for Veterans experiencing homelessness impacts medical and mental health services utilization.

Methods

Trainees from five professions were incorporated into an interprofessional ambulatory clinic for Veterans experiencing homelessness starting in July 2016. We performed clinic-level interrupted time series (ITS) analyses of pre- and post-intervention utilization measures among patients enrolled in this training continuity clinic, compared to three similar VA homeless clinics without training programs from October 2015 to September 2018.

Results

Our sample consisted of 37,671 patient- months. There was no significant difference between the intervention and comparison groups' post-intervention slopes for numbers of primary care visits (difference in slopes =-0.16 visits/100 patients/month; 95% CI -0.40, 0.08; p=0.19), emergency department visits (difference in slopes = 0.08 visits/100 patients/month; 95% CI -0.16, 0.32; p=0.50), mental health visits (difference in slopes = -1.37 visits/month; 95% CI -2.95, 0.20; p= 0.09), and psychiatric hospitalizations (-0.005 admissions/100 patients/month; 95% CI -0.02, 0.01; p= 0.62). We found a clinically insignificant change in medical hospitalizations.

Conclusions

Adding continuity trainees from five health professions to an interprofessional ambulatory clinic caring for Veterans experiencing homelessness did not adversely impact inpatient and outpatient care utilization. An organized team-based care approach is beneficial for vulnerable patients and provides a meaningful educational experience for interprofessional trainees by building health professionals' capabilities to care for vulnerable populations.

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