Rapid Integration of Home Telehealth Visits Amidst COVID-19: What Do Older Adults Need to Succeed?

J Am Geriatr Soc. 2020 Sep 15. doi: 10.1111/jgs.16845. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Our objective was to identify and address patient-perceived barriers to integrating home telehealth visits.

Design: We used an exploratory sequential mixed-methods design to conduct patient needs assessments, a home telehealth pilot, and formative evaluation of the pilot.

Setting: Veterans Affairs geriatrics-renal clinic.

Participants: Patients with scheduled clinic visits from October 2019 to April 2020.

Measurements: We conducted an in-person needs assessment and telephone postvisit interviews.

Results: Through 50 needs assessments, we identified patient-perceived barriers in interest, access to care, access to technology, and confidence. A total of 34 (68%) patients were interested in completing a home telehealth visit, but fewer (32 (64%)) had access to the necessary technology or were confident (21 (42%)) that they could participate. We categorized patients into four phenotypes based on their interest and capability to complete a home telehealth visit: interested and capable, interested and incapable, uninterested and capable, and uninterested and incapable. These phenotypes allowed us to create trainings to overcome patient-perceived barriers. We completed 32 home telehealth visits and 12 postvisit interviews. Our formative evaluation showed that our pilot was successful in addressing many patient-perceived barriers. All interviewees reported that the home telehealth visits improved their well-being. Home telehealth visits saved participants an average of 166 minutes of commute time. Five participants borrowed a device from a family member, and five visits were finished via telephone. All participants successfully completed a home telehealth visit.

Conclusions: We identified patient-perceived barriers to home telehealth visits and classified patients into four phenotypes based on these barriers. Using principles of implementation science, our home telehealth pilot addressed these barriers, and all patients successfully completed a visit. Future study is needed to understand methods to deploy larger-scale efforts to integrate home telehealth visits into the care of older adults.

Keywords: COVID-19; geriatrics; home telehealth; telehealth; virtual care.