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Peer support and whole health coaching to address the healthcare needs of homeless veterans: a pilot study.

Blonigen D, Smelson D, Smith J, Baldwin N, McInnes DK, Raikov I, Weber J, Hyde J. Peer support and whole health coaching to address the healthcare needs of homeless veterans: a pilot study. BMC primary care. 2022 Dec 19; 23(1):331.

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BACKGROUND: Homelessness is a robust social determinant of acute care service utilization among veterans. Although intensive outpatient programs have been developed for homeless veterans who are high utilizers of acute care ("super utilizers"), few scalable programs have been implemented to address their needs. OBJECTIVE: Describe the development and pilot testing of a novel intervention that integrates the roles of a peer and whole health coach ("Peer-WHC") in coordination with primary care teams to reduce homeless veterans'' frequent use of acute care. DESIGN: Single-arm trial in three outpatient primary care clinics at a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical center; pre/post design using mixed-methods. PARTICIPANTS: Twenty veterans from VHA''s homeless registry who were super-utilizers of acute care and enrolled in primary care. INTERVENTION: Weekly health coaching sessions with a peer over 12 weeks, including discussions of patients'' health care utilization patterns and coordination with primary care. MAIN MEASURES: Rates of session attendance and intervention fidelity, patient-reported satisfaction and changes in patient engagement and perceptions of health, pre/post utilization of acute and supportive care services, and qualitative interviews with multiple stakeholders to identify barriers and facilitators to implementation. KEY RESULTS: On average, patients attended 6.35 sessions (SD? = 3.5, Median? = 7). Satisfaction scores (M? = 28.75 out of 32; SD? = 2.79) exceeded a priori benchmarks. Patients'' perceptions of health improved from pre to post [t(df) = -2.26(14), p? = 0.04]. In the 3-months pre/post, 45% (n? = 9) and 15% (n? = 3) of patients, respectively, were hospitalized. Qualitative feedback from patients, providers, and peers and fidelity metrics suggested value in increasing the length of the intervention to facilitate goal-setting with patients and coordination with primary care. CONCLUSION: Findings support the feasibility, acceptability, and utility of Peer-WHC to address the healthcare needs of homeless veterans. A future trial is warranted to test the impact of Peer-WHC on reducing these patients'' frequent use of acute care.

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