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JMIR Form Res ; 6(1): e32764, 2022 Jan 28.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1662528


BACKGROUND: As health care systems shift to greater use of telemedicine and digital tools, an individual's digital health literacy has become an important skillset. The Veterans Health Administration (VA) has invested resources in providing digital health care; however, to date, no study has compared the digital health skills and preparedness of veterans receiving care in the VA to veterans receiving care outside the VA. OBJECTIVE: The goal of the research was to describe digital health skills and preparedness among veterans who receive care within and outside the VA health care system and examine whether receiving care in the VA is associated with digital preparedness (reporting more than 2 digital health skills) after accounting for demographic and social risk factors. METHODS: We used cross-sectional data from the 2016-2018 National Health Interview Survey to identify veterans (aged over 18 years) who obtain health care either within or outside the VA health care system. We used multivariable logistic regression models to examine the association of sociodemographic (age, sex, race, ethnicity), social risk factors (economic instability, disadvantaged neighborhood, low educational attainment, and social isolation), and health care delivery location (VA and non-VA) with digital preparedness. RESULTS: Those who received health care within the VA health care system (n=3188) were younger (age 18-49 years: 33.3% [95% CI 30.7-36.0] vs 24.2% [95% CI 21.9-26.5], P<.01), were more often female (34.7% [95% CI 32.0-37.3] vs 6.6% [95% CI 5.5-7.6], P<.01) and identified as Black (13.1% [95% CI 11.2-15.0] vs 10.2% [95% CI 8.7-11.8], P<.01), and reported greater economic instability (8.3% [95% CI 6.9-9.8] vs 5.5% [95% CI 4.6-6.5], P<.01) and social isolation (42.6% [95% CI 40.3-44.9] vs 35.4% [95% CI 33.4-37.5], P<.01) compared to veterans who received care outside the VA (n=3393). Veterans who obtained care within the VA reported more digital health skills than those who obtained care outside the VA, endorsing greater rates of looking up health information on the internet (51.8% [95% CI 49.2-54.4] vs 45.0% [95% CI 42.6-47.3], P<.01), filling a prescription using the internet (16.2% [95% CI 14.5-18.0] vs 11.3% [95% CI 9.6-13.0], P<.01), scheduling a health care appointment on the internet (14.1% [95% CI 12.4-15.8] vs 11.6% [95% CI 10.1-13.1], P=.02), and communicating with a health care provider by email (18.0% [95% CI 16.1-19.8] vs 13.3% [95% CI 11.6-14.9], P<.01). Following adjustment for sociodemographic and social risk factors, receiving health care from the VA was the only characteristic associated with higher odds (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.36, 95% CI 1.12-1.65) of being digitally prepared. CONCLUSIONS: Despite these demographic disadvantages to digital uptake, veterans who receive care in the VA reported more digital health skills and appear more digitally prepared than veterans who do not receive care within the VA, suggesting a positive, system-level influence on this cohort.

JAMA Netw Open ; 4(6): e2113031, 2021 06 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1261749


Importance: The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers programs that reduce barriers to care for veterans and those with housing instability, poverty, and substance use disorder. In this setting, however, the role that social and behavioral risk factors play in COVID-19 outcomes is unclear. Objective: To examine whether social and behavioral risk factors were associated with mortality among US veterans with COVID-19 and whether this association might be modified by race/ethnicity. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study obtained data from the VA Corporate Data Warehouse to form a cohort of veterans who received a positive COVID-19 test result between March 2 and September 30, 2020, in a VA health care facility. All veterans who met the inclusion criteria were eligible to participate in the study, and participants were followed up for 30 days after the first SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 diagnosis. The final follow-up date was October 31, 2020. Exposures: Social risk factors included housing problems and financial hardship. Behavioral risk factors included current tobacco use, alcohol use, and substance use. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was all-cause mortality in the 30-day period after the SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 diagnosis date. Multivariable logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios, clustering for health care facilities and adjusting for age, sex, race, ethnicity, marital status, clinical factors, and month of COVID-19 diagnosis. Results: Among 27 640 veterans with COVID-19 who were included in the analysis, 24 496 were men (88.6%) and the mean (SD) age was 57.2 (16.6) years. A total of 3090 veterans (11.2%) had housing problems, 4450 (16.1%) had financial hardship, 5358 (19.4%) used alcohol, and 3569 (12.9%) reported substance use. Hospitalization occurred in 7663 veterans (27.7%), and 1230 veterans (4.5%) died. Housing problems (adjusted odds ratio [AOR], 0.96; 95% CI, 0.77-1.19; P = .70), financial hardship (AOR, 1.13; 95% CI, 0.97-1.31; P = .11), alcohol use (AOR, 0.82; 95% CI, 0.68-1.01; P = .06), current tobacco use (AOR, 0.85; 95% CI, 0.68-1.06; P = .14), and substance use (AOR, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.71-1.15; P = .41) were not associated with higher mortality. Interaction analyses by race/ethnicity did not find associations between mortality and social and behavioral risk factors. Conclusions and Relevance: Results of this study showed that, in an integrated health system such as the VA, social and behavioral risk factors were not associated with mortality from COVID-19. Further research is needed to substantiate the potential of an integrated health system to be a model of support services for households with COVID-19 and populations who are at risk for the disease.

COVID-19/mortality , Housing , Pandemics , Poverty , Substance-Related Disorders , Veterans , Adult , Aged , Alcohol Drinking , COVID-19/ethnology , Cohort Studies , Female , Homeless Persons , Humans , Logistic Models , Male , Middle Aged , Odds Ratio , Risk Factors , SARS-CoV-2 , Tobacco Use , United States/epidemiology , United States Department of Veterans Affairs