Telehealth in Home-Based Primary Care: Factors and Challenges Associated With Integration Into Veteran Care

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2019 Sep;67(9):1928-1933. doi: 10.1111/jgs.16045. Epub 2019 Jul 25.


Objectives: To describe the structural characteristics and challenges associated with home telehealth (HT) use in the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Home-Based Primary Care (HBPC) program.

Design: We designed a national survey to collect information about HBPC program structural characteristics. The survey included eight organizational and service domains, one of which was HT. HBPC program directors were surveyed online using REDCap.

Participants: We received 232 surveys from 394 HBPC sites (59% response rate).

Methods: HBPC structural domains were compared between sites using and not using HT technology. Open-ended responses were analyzed using content analysis.

Results: A total of 127 sites (76%) used HT, which was more likely when HBPC sites were aligned organizationally with the VA's Geriatrics and Extended Care Services division, when there were more disciplines on the HBPC team, and when primary care providers made home visits. Program directors overwhelmingly viewed HT as contributing to managing veterans' complex chronic conditions (81%), yet HT data were not readily integrated into care planning (24%). Challenges to HT use included veterans' acceptance and adherence, device issues, and collaboration between HBPC teams and HT staff.

Conclusion: Corresponding to HBPC's complexity, HT use is primarily a self-organizing process that shapes the patterns of integration at each site. Although HT technology is compatible with core structures of the HBPC model, usability varies, and overall is low. To optimize HT use in HBPC, there are opportunities to redesign systems to mitigate challenges to adoption. As the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' strives to increase access to both HBPC and telehealth benefits, evidenced by the continuation of its successful Independence at Home demonstration and the final changes in the proposed rule in April 2019 incorporating additional telehealth benefits for beneficiaries, this information will be relevant to VA and non-VA alike. J Am Geriatr Soc 67:1928-1933, 2019.

Keywords: home telehealth; home-based primary care; interdisciplinary teams; veterans affairs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / methods
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Home Care Services*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicare
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Telemedicine*
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans Health Services*