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Identifying Family and Unpaid Caregivers in Electronic Health Records: Descriptive Analysis.

Ma JE, Grubber J, Coffman CJ, Wang V, Hastings SN, Allen KD, Shepherd-Banigan M, Decosimo K, Dadolf J, Sullivan C, Sperber NR, Van Houtven CH. Identifying Family and Unpaid Caregivers in Electronic Health Records: Descriptive Analysis. JMIR formative research. 2022 Jul 18; 6(7):e35623.

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BACKGROUND: Most efforts to identify caregivers for research use passive approaches such as self-nomination. We describe an approach in which electronic health records (EHRs) can help identify, recruit, and increase diverse representations of family and other unpaid caregivers. OBJECTIVE: Few health systems have implemented systematic processes for identifying caregivers. This study aimed to develop and evaluate an EHR-driven process for identifying veterans likely to have unpaid caregivers in a caregiver survey study. We additionally examined whether there were EHR-derived veteran characteristics associated with veterans having unpaid caregivers. METHODS: We selected EHR home- and community-based referrals suggestive of veterans'' need for supportive care from friends or family. We identified veterans with these referrals across the 8 US Department of Veteran Affairs medical centers enrolled in our study. Phone calls to a subset of these veterans confirmed whether they had a caregiver, specifically an unpaid caregiver. We calculated the screening contact rate for unpaid caregivers of veterans using attempted phone screening and for those who completed phone screening. The veteran characteristics from the EHR were compared across referral and screening groups using descriptive statistics, and logistic regression was used to compare the likelihood of having an unpaid caregiver among veterans who completed phone screening. RESULTS: During the study period, our EHR-driven process identified 12,212 veterans with home- and community-based referrals; 2134 (17.47%) veteran households were called for phone screening. Among the 2134 veterans called, 1367 (64.06%) answered the call, and 813 (38.1%) veterans had a caregiver based on self-report of the veteran, their caregiver, or another person in the household. The unpaid caregiver identification rate was 38.1% and 59.5% among those with an attempted phone screening and completed phone screening, respectively. Veterans had increased odds of having an unpaid caregiver if they were married (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.69, 95% CI 1.68-4.34), had respite care (adjusted OR 2.17, 95% CI 1.41-3.41), or had adult day health care (adjusted OR 3.69, 95% CI 1.60-10.00). Veterans with a dementia diagnosis (adjusted OR 1.37, 95% CI 1.00-1.89) or veteran-directed care referral (adjusted OR 1.95, 95% CI 0.97-4.20) were also suggestive of an association with having an unpaid caregiver. CONCLUSIONS: The EHR-driven process to identify veterans likely to have unpaid caregivers is systematic and resource intensive. Approximately 60% (813/1367) of veterans who were successfully screened had unpaid caregivers. In the absence of discrete fields in the EHR, our EHR-driven process can be used to identify unpaid caregivers; however, incorporating caregiver identification fields into the EHR would support a more efficient and systematic identification of caregivers. TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT03474380;

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