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PPO 22-040 – HSR Study

PPO 22-040
Virtual Care Coordination in VA Primary Care-Mental Health Integration
Lucinda B Leung, MD MPH PhD
VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, West Los Angeles, CA
West Los Angeles, CA
Funding Period: August 2023 - September 2025


Background: Among newly initiated Primary Care-Mental Health Integration (PC-MHI) patients, same day access to PC-MHI from primary care or other select medical clinics (e.g., emergency department/urgent care) is a Veterans Health Administration (VA) Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning (SAIL) performance measure (mnemonic: pcmhi7). Prompt initiation of mental health care after a medical visit increases the likelihood of subsequent mental health follow-up visits, enhancing quality of care. Yet, despite the rapid VA virtual care expansion during COVID-19, factors that influence virtual same day access to PC-MHI are unknown. Significance: Preliminary studies from this research group found that in a large VA medical center, PC-MHI same day access rates were nearly twice as high for in-person visits compared to virtual visits. Accordingly, PC-MHI patients who initiate care virtually may experience poorer medical and mental health outcomes from loss to follow-up. This finding reflects a knowledge gap that exists across disciplines in both VA and non-VA settings regarding effective strategies for virtual care coordination. The proposed study addresses multiple HSR&D Priority Areas: Access to Care, Mental Health, Primary Care Practice, Virtual Care/Telehealth. Innovation & Impact: The proposed research would be the first to characterize factors that influence same day access to PC-MHI among patients who use virtual care to initiate mental health services, including mutable clinic characteristics that may be amenable to intervention. By identifying specific predictors of same day access to PC-MHI from primary care, the proposed study will advance understanding of factors that affect virtual same day access while also identifying specific targets for future interventions, improving quality of care, and relatedly, medical and mental health outcomes, for Veterans who seek PC-MHI care virtually. Moreover, the study will advance scientific knowledge by providing data to inform strategies for effective interdisciplinary virtual care coordination. Specific Aims: 1) Identify multi-level characteristics associated with virtual and in-person PC-MHI same day access in a national VA sample. 2) Assess barriers, facilitators, and strategies for successful virtual care coordination in PC-MHI. Methodology: The study will use a mixed methods design. For Aim 1 (Quantitative), a national cohort of Veterans who initiated PC-MHI mental health services during FY2019 − FY2021 will be identified. PC-MHI same day access will be determined based on the presence or absence of a primary care or other select medical clinic visit on the same day as the initial PC-MHI appointment, per the Mental Health SAIL definition. A multi-level generalized linear model will be used to evaluate predictors of virtual and in-person same day access. For Aim 2 (Qualitative), semi-structured qualitative interviews with PC-MHI mental health providers and primary care providers from two VA healthcare systems (one urban, one rural) will be conducted to identify barriers, facilitators, and strategies for virtual care coordination in PC-MHI. Next Steps/Implementation: In partnership with the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, the Office of Connected Care, and the Office of Primary Care, the findings will be applied toward an HSR&D Merit Review Award grant proposal to develop an intervention to improve virtual care coordination in PC-MHI.

External Links for this Project

NIH Reporter

Grant Number: I21HX003593-01A1

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None at this time.

DRA: Mental, Cognitive and Behavioral Disorders
DRE: Prevention
Keywords: Models of Care, Utilization
MeSH Terms: None at this time.

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