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1.
Ann Intern Med ; 176(6): 807-816, 2023 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20232825

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Information about the effectiveness of oral antivirals in preventing short- and long-term COVID-19-related outcomes in the setting of Omicron variant transmission and COVID-19 vaccination is limited. OBJECTIVE: To measure the effectiveness of nirmatrelvir-ritonavir and molnupiravir for outpatient treatment of COVID-19. DESIGN: Three retrospective target trial emulation studies comparing matched cohorts of nirmatrelvir-ritonavir versus no treatment, molnupiravir versus no treatment, and nirmatrelvir-ritonavir versus molnupiravir. SETTING: Veterans Health Administration (VHA). PARTICIPANTS: Nonhospitalized veterans in VHA care who were at risk for severe COVID-19 and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 during January through July 2022. INTERVENTION: Nirmatrelvir-ritonavir or molnupiravir pharmacotherapy. MEASUREMENTS: Incidence of any hospitalization or all-cause mortality at 30 days and from 31 to 180 days. RESULTS: Eighty-seven percent of participants were male; the median age was 66 years, and 18% were unvaccinated. Compared with matched untreated control participants, those treated with nirmatrelvir-ritonavir (n = 9607) had lower 30-day risk for hospitalization (22.07 vs. 30.32 per 1000 participants; risk difference [RD], -8.25 [95% CI, -12.27 to -4.23] per 1000 participants) and death (1.25 vs. 5.47 per 1000 participants; RD, -4.22 [CI, -5.45 to -3.00] per 1000 participants). Among persons alive at day 31, reductions were seen in 31- to 180-day incidence of death (hazard ratio, 0.66 [CI, 0.49 to 0.89]) but not hospitalization (subhazard ratio, 0.90 [CI, 0.79 to 1.02]). Molnupiravir-treated participants (n = 3504) had lower 30-day and 31- to 180-day risks for death (3.14 vs. 13.56 per 1000 participants at 30 days; RD, -10.42 [CI, -13.49 to -7.35] per 1000 participants; hazard ratio at 31 to 180 days, 0.67 [CI, 0.48 to 0.95]) but not hospitalization. A difference in 30-day or 31- to 180-day risk for hospitalization or death was not observed between matched nirmatrelvir- or molnupiravir-treated participants. LIMITATION: The date of COVID-19 symptom onset for most veterans was unknown. CONCLUSION: Nirmatrelvir-ritonavir was effective in reducing 30-day hospitalization and death. Molnupiravir was associated with a benefit for 30-day mortality but not hospitalization. Further reductions in mortality from 31 to 180 days were observed with both antivirals. PRIMARY FUNDING SOURCE: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , Aged , Female , Humans , Male , Antiviral Agents/therapeutic use , COVID-19 Drug Treatment , COVID-19 Vaccines , Retrospective Studies , Ritonavir/therapeutic use , SARS-CoV-2
2.
BMC Health Serv Res ; 23(1): 600, 2023 Jun 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20231794

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: There is increasing recognition of the need to focus on the health and well-being of healthcare employees given high rates of burnout and turnover. Employee wellness programs are effective at addressing these issues; however, participation in these programs is often a challenge and requires large scale organizational transformation. The Veterans Health Administration (VA) has begun to roll out their own employee wellness program-Employee Whole Health (EWH)-focused on the holistic needs of all employees. This evaluation's goal was to use the Lean Enterprise Transformation (LET) model for organizational transformation to identify key factors-facilitators and barriers-affecting the implementation of VA EWH. METHODS: This cross-sectional qualitative evaluation based on the action research model reflects on the organizational implementation of EWH. Semi-structured 60-minute phone interviews were conducted in February-April 2021 with 27 key informants (e.g., EWH coordinator, wellness/occupational health staff) knowledgeable about EWH implementation across 10 VA medical centers. Operational partner provided a list of potential participants, eligible because of their involvement in EWH implementation at their site. The interview guide was informed by the LET model. Interviews were recorded and professionally transcribed. Constant comparative review with a combination of a priori coding based on the model and emergent thematic analysis was used to identify themes from transcripts. Matrix analysis and rapid turnaround qualitative methods were used to identify cross-site factors to EWH implementation. RESULTS: Eight common factors in the conceptual model were found to facilitate and/or hinder EWH implementation efforts: [1] EWH initiatives, [2] multilevel leadership support, [3] alignment, [4] integration, [5] employee engagement, [6] communication, [7] staffing, and [8] culture. An emergent factor was [9] the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on EWH implementation. CONCLUSIONS: As VA expands its EWH cultural transformation nationwide, evaluation findings can (a) enable existing programs to address known implementation barriers, and (b) inform new sites to capitalize on known facilitators, anticipate and address barriers, and leverage evaluation recommendations through concerted implementation at the organization, process, and employee levels to jump-start their EWH program implementation.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Occupational Health , Veterans , Humans , Cross-Sectional Studies , Pandemics , Qualitative Research , United States , United States Department of Veterans Affairs , Veterans Health
3.
JAMA Netw Open ; 6(5): e2315902, 2023 05 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20240740

ABSTRACT

Importance: Veterans Health Administration (VHA) enrollees receive care for COVID-19 in both VHA and non-VHA (ie, community) hospitals, but little is known about the frequency or outcomes of care for veterans with COVID-19 in VHA vs community hospitals. Objective: To compare outcomes among veterans admitted for COVID-19 in VHA vs community hospitals. Design, Setting, and Participants: This retrospective cohort study used VHA and Medicare data from March 1, 2020, to December 31, 2021, on hospitalizations for COVID-19 in 121 VHA and 4369 community hospitals in the US among a national cohort of veterans (aged ≥65 years) enrolled in both the VHA and Medicare with VHA care in the year prior to hospitalization for COVID-19 based on the primary diagnosis code. Exposure: Admission to VHA vs community hospitals. Main Outcomes and Measures: The main outcomes were 30-day mortality and 30-day readmission. Inverse probability of treatment weighting was used to balance observable patient characteristics (eg, demographic characteristics, comorbidity, mechanical ventilation on admission, area-level social vulnerability, distance to VHA vs community hospitals, and date of admission) between VHA and community hospitals. Results: The cohort included 64 856 veterans (mean [SD] age, 77.6 [8.0] years; 63 562 men [98.0%]) dually enrolled in the VHA and Medicare who were hospitalized for COVID-19. Most (47 821 [73.7%]) were admitted to community hospitals (36 362 [56.1%] admitted to community hospitals via Medicare, 11 459 [17.7%] admitted to community hospitals reimbursed via VHA's Care in the Community program, and 17 035 [26.3%] admitted to VHA hospitals). Admission to community hospitals was associated with higher unadjusted and risk-adjusted 30-day mortality compared with admission to VHA hospitals (crude mortality, 12 951 of 47 821 [27.1%] vs 3021 of 17 035 [17.7%]; P < .001; risk-adjusted odds ratio, 1.37 [95% CI, 1.21-1.55]; P < .001). Readmission within 30 days was less common after admission to community compared with VHA hospitals (4898 of 38 576 [12.7%] vs 2006 of 14 357 [14.0%]; risk-adjusted hazard ratio, 0.89 [95% CI, 0.86-0.92]; P < .001). Conclusions and Relevance: This study found that most hospitalizations for COVID-19 among VHA enrollees aged 65 years or older were in community hospitals and that veterans experienced higher mortality in community hospitals than in VHA hospitals. The VHA must understand the sources of the mortality difference to plan care for VHA enrollees during future COVID-19 surges and the next pandemic.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , Male , Humans , Aged , United States/epidemiology , Medicare , Retrospective Studies , COVID-19/therapy , Veterans Health , Hospitalization , Hospitals
4.
J Prim Care Community Health ; 14: 21501319231180448, 2023.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20239004

ABSTRACT

In April 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and escalating unsheltered homelessness in Los Angeles by sanctioning a tent turned tiny shelter encampment at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs medical center. Initially, staff offered linkages to on-campus VA healthcare. However, as many Veterans living in the encampment struggled to avail themselves of these services, our "encampment medicine" team was launched to provide on-site care coordination and healthcare at the tiny shelters. This case study showcases the team's engagement with a Veteran experiencing homelessness struggling with opioid use disorder and depicts how this co-located, comprehensive care team allowed for trusting care relationships formed with, and empowerment of the Veterans living in the encampment. The piece highlights a healthcare model that engages with persons experiencing homelessness on their own terms while building trust and solidarity, focuses on the sense of community that formed in the tiny shelter encampment, and gives recommendations for how homeless services might adapt to use the strengths of this unique community.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , United States , Humans , Housing , Pandemics , United States Department of Veterans Affairs
5.
Nat Commun ; 14(1): 2976, 2023 05 23.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20237769

ABSTRACT

Studies of comparative mRNA booster effectiveness among high-risk populations can inform mRNA booster-specific guidelines. The study emulated a target trial of COVID-19 vaccinated U.S. Veterans who received three doses of either mRNA-1273 or BNT162b2 vaccines. Participants were followed for up to 32 weeks between July 1, 2021 to May 30, 2022. Non-overlapping populations were average and high risk; high-risk sub-groups were age ≥65 years, high-risk co-morbid conditions, and immunocompromising conditions. Of 1,703,189 participants, 10.9 per 10,000 persons died or were hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia over 32 weeks (95% CI: 10.2, 11.8). Although relative risks of death or hospitalization with COVID-19 pneumonia were similar across at-risk groups, absolute risk varied when comparing three doses of BNT162b2 with mRNA-1273 (BNT162b2 minus mRNA-1273) between average-risk and high-risk populations, confirmed by the presence of additive interaction. The risk difference of death or hospitalization with COVID-19 pneumonia for high-risk populations was 2.2 (0.9, 3.6). Effects were not modified by predominant viral variant. In this work, the risk of death or hospitalization with COVID-19 pneumonia over 32 weeks was lower among high-risk populations who received three doses of mRNA-1273 vaccine instead of BNT162b2 vaccine; no difference was found among the average-risk population and age >65 sub-group.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , Humans , Aged , 2019-nCoV Vaccine mRNA-1273 , BNT162 Vaccine , Hospitalization , RNA, Messenger
6.
BMJ Open ; 13(6): e068904, 2023 Jun 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20235545

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES: To identify effective initiatives to increase veteran registration in UK primary healthcare (PHC) practices. DESIGN: A structured and systematic strategy was designed to improve the number of military veterans correctly coded within PHC. A mixed methods approach was adopted to evaluate the impact. PHC staff provided anonymised patient medical record data that used Read and Systematised Nomenclature of Medicine - Clinical Terms codes to identify the number of veterans within each PHC practice. This included baseline data, then scheduled further information after two phases of internal advertisement and two phases of external advertisement of different initiatives intended to raise veteran registration. Qualitative data was acquired through post-project interviews with PHC staff to ascertain the effectiveness, benefits, problems and means for improvement. A modified Grounded theory was used for the 12 staff interviews. SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Twelve PHC practices in Cheshire, England, participated in this research study with a combined total of 138 098 patients. Data was collected between 01 September 2020 until 28 February 2021. RESULTS: Overall, veteran registration increased by 218.1% (N=1311). Estimated coverage of veterans increased from a coverage of 9.3% to a coverage of 29.5%. There was an increased population coverage ranging from 5.0% to 54.1%. The staff interviews revealed improved staff commitment and their taking ownership of the responsibility to improve veteran registration. The primary challenge was the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular the significantly reduced footfall and the communication opportunities and interface with patients. CONCLUSIONS: Managing an advertising campaign and improving veteran registration during a pandemic caused huge problems, but it also presented opportunities. Enabling a significant increase in PHC registration during the harshest and most testing conditions indicates that the accomplished achievements have substantial merit for wider adoption and impact.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , Humans , Pandemics , COVID-19/epidemiology , England , Primary Health Care/methods
7.
J Psychiatr Res ; 163: 386-390, 2023 Jul.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2327721

ABSTRACT

Research has demonstrated that the impact of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the mental health of United States (U.S.) veterans was less negative than originally anticipated. However, U.S. veterans are susceptible to exacerbation of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptomology in late life. The aims of this study were to examine the extent to which older U.S. veterans experienced an exacerbation of PTSD symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to identify pre- and peri-pandemic factors that conferred risk for symptom exacerbation. Participants were U.S. military veterans aged 60 and older who completed three waves of the 2019-2022 National Health and Resilience in Veterans Study (NHRVS) (n=1858). PTSD symptoms were measured at all waves using the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5, and a latent growth mixture model was conducted to compute latent slopes of change of PTSD symptoms over the 3-year period. 159 (8.3%) participants experienced a worsening of PTSD symptomology over the pandemic period. Factors related to PTSD exacerbation were incident trauma exposure between Waves 1 and 2, more medical conditions with onset prior to the pandemic, and peri-pandemic social restriction stress. Number of incident traumas moderated the relationship between both number of pre-pandemic medical conditions and pre-pandemic social connectedness, and exacerbated PTSD symptoms. These results suggest that the pandemic did not confer additional risk for PTSD exacerbation than would be expected over a 3-year period for older veterans. Those who experience incident trauma exposure should be monitored for symptom exacerbation.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic , Veterans , Humans , United States/epidemiology , Middle Aged , Aged , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/psychology , Veterans/psychology , Pandemics , Symptom Flare Up , COVID-19/epidemiology
8.
Med Care ; 61(7): 456-461, 2023 Jul 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2326643

ABSTRACT

IMPORTANCE: The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in excess mortality among the general US population and at Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facilities. It is critical to understand the characteristics of facilities that experienced the highest and lowest pandemic-related mortality to inform future mitigation efforts. OBJECTIVE: To identify facility-level excess mortality during the pandemic and to correlate these estimates with facility characteristics and community-wide rates of COVID-19 burden. DESIGN: We used pre-pandemic data to estimate mortality risk prediction models using 5-fold cross-validation and Poisson quasi-likelihood regression. We then estimated excess mortality and observed versus expected (O/E) mortality ratios by the VHA facility from March to December 2020. We examined facility-level characteristics by excess mortality quartile. PARTICIPANTS: Overall, there were 11.4 million VHA enrollees during 2016 and 2020. MAIN MEASURES: Facility-level O/E mortality ratios and excess all-cause mortality. RESULT: VHA-enrolled veterans experienced 52,038 excess deaths from March to December 2020, equating to 16.8% excess mortality. Facility-specific rates ranged from -5.5% to +63.7%. Facilities in the lowest quartile for excess mortality experienced fewer COVID-19 deaths (0.7-1.51, P <0.001) and cases (52.0-63.0, P =0.002) per 1,000 population compared with the highest quartile. The highest quartile facilities had more hospital beds (276.7-187.6, P =0.024) and a higher percent change in the share of visits conducted via telehealth from 2019 to 2020 (183%-133%, P <0.008). CONCLUSIONS: There was a large variation in mortality across VHA facilities during the pandemic, which was only partially explained by the local COVID-19 burden. Our work provides a framework for large health care systems to identify changes in facility-level mortality during a public health emergency.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , Humans , Pandemics , Veterans Health , Mortality
9.
BMJ ; 381: e074521, 2023 05 23.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2322055

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVES: To determine the association between covid-19 vaccination types and doses with adverse outcomes of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection during the periods of delta (B.1.617.2) and omicron (B.1.1.529) variant predominance. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort. SETTING: US Veterans Affairs healthcare system. PARTICIPANTS: Adults (≥18 years) who are affiliated to Veterans Affairs with a first documented SARS-CoV-2 infection during the periods of delta (1 July-30 November 2021) or omicron (1 January-30 June 2022) variant predominance. The combined cohorts had a mean age of 59.4 (standard deviation 16.3) and 87% were male. INTERVENTIONS: Covid-19 vaccination with mRNA vaccines (BNT162b2 (Pfizer-BioNTech) and mRNA-1273 (Moderna)) and adenovirus vector vaccine (Ad26.COV2.S (Janssen/Johnson & Johnson)). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Stay in hospital, intensive care unit admission, use of ventilation, and mortality measured 30 days after a positive test result for SARS-CoV-2. RESULTS: In the delta period, 95 336 patients had infections with 47.6% having at least one vaccine dose, compared with 184 653 patients in the omicron period, with 72.6% vaccinated. After adjustment for patient demographic and clinical characteristics, in the delta period, two doses of the mRNA vaccines were associated with lower odds of hospital admission (adjusted odds ratio 0.41 (95% confidence interval 0.39 to 0.43)), intensive care unit admission (0.33 (0.31 to 0.36)), ventilation (0.27 (0.24 to 0.30)), and death (0.21 (0.19 to 0.23)), compared with no vaccination. In the omicron period, receipt of two mRNA doses were associated with lower odds of hospital admission (0.60 (0.57 to 0.63)), intensive care unit admission (0.57 (0.53 to 0.62)), ventilation (0.59 (0.51 to 0.67)), and death (0.43 (0.39 to 0.48)). Additionally, a third mRNA dose was associated with lower odds of all outcomes compared with two doses: hospital admission (0.65 (0.63 to 0.69)), intensive care unit admission (0.65 (0.59 to 0.70)), ventilation (0.70 (0.61 to 0.80)), and death (0.51 (0.46 to 0.57)). The Ad26.COV2.S vaccination was associated with better outcomes relative to no vaccination, but higher odds of hospital stay and intensive care unit admission than with two mRNA doses. BNT162b2 was generally associated with worse outcomes than mRNA-1273 (adjusted odds ratios between 0.97 and 1.42). CONCLUSIONS: In veterans with recent healthcare use and high occurrence of multimorbidity, vaccination was robustly associated with lower odds of 30 day morbidity and mortality compared with no vaccination among patients infected with covid-19. The vaccination type and number of doses had a significant association with outcomes.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , Adult , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Female , SARS-CoV-2 , BNT162 Vaccine , Retrospective Studies , 2019-nCoV Vaccine mRNA-1273 , Ad26COVS1 , COVID-19 Vaccines , mRNA Vaccines
10.
J Consult Clin Psychol ; 91(5): 267-279, 2023 May.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2321956

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE: Measurement-based care is designed to track symptom levels during treatment and leverage clinically significant change benchmarks to improve quality and outcomes. Though the Veterans Health Administration promotes monitoring progress within posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) clinical teams, actionability of data is diminished by a lack of population-based benchmarks for clinically significant change. We reported the state of repeated measurement within PTSD clinical teams, generated benchmarks, and examined outcomes based on these benchmarks. METHOD: PTSD Checklist for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition data were culled from the Corporate Data Warehouse from the pre-COVID-19 year for Veterans who received at least eight sessions in 14 weeks (episode of care [EOC] cohort) and those who received sporadic care (modal cohort). We used the Jacobson and Truax (1991) approach to generate clinically significant change benchmarks at clinic, regional, and national levels and calculated the frequency of cases that deteriorated, were unchanged, improved, or probably recovered, using our generated benchmarks and benchmarks from a recent study, for both cohorts. RESULTS: Both the number of repeated measurements and the cases who had multisession care in the Corporate Data Warehouse were very low. Clinically significant change benchmarks were similar across locality levels. The modal cohort had worse outcomes than the EOC cohort. CONCLUSIONS: National benchmarks for clinically significant change could improve the actionability of assessment data for measurement-based care. Benchmarks created using data from Veterans who received multisession care had better outcomes than those receiving sporadic care. Measurement-based care in PTSD clinical teams is hampered by low rates of repeated assessments of outcome. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic , Veterans , Humans , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/epidemiology , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/therapy , Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/diagnosis , Benchmarking , Metadata
11.
Soc Work ; 68(3): 230-239, 2023 06 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2316236

ABSTRACT

Social work turnover from the emotional overload of providing care during the pandemic has created staff shortages and exposed many gaps in service delivery. Those social workers who sustained employment during this pandemic are asked to take on flexible/additional roles to fill in those gaps in services to their most vulnerable clients. This qualitative study (N = 12) of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) inpatient social workers at two sites across the country assesses their experiences of taking on additional roles at their respective VA facility. Three research questions were addressed to the participants: (1) Describe your roles and responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic? (2) How did those responsibilities change/evolve over time? and (3) Did you receive training for your new roles or tasks? Thematic analysis revealed six themes that would facilitate effectiveness and continuity of care: (1) recognizing insufficient training to handle a pandemic, (2) meeting the demand for care, (3) responding to unexpected aspects of flexibility, (4) adjusting to new roles over time, (5) adaptation and support, and (6) additional resources to simplify efforts. With COVID rates stabilizing across much of the United States, now is the time to implement trainings and education about job flexibility in the future instance of a pandemic.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , Humans , United States/epidemiology , Social Workers , Pandemics , COVID-19/epidemiology , Veterans/psychology , Health Personnel/psychology , Social Work
13.
Health Serv Res ; 58(3): 642-653, 2023 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2314515

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE: The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected racial and ethnic minorities among the general population in the United States; however, little is known regarding its impact on U.S. military Veterans. In this study, our objectives were to identify the extent to which Veterans experienced increased all-cause mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic, stratified by race and ethnicity. DATA SOURCES: Administrative data from the Veterans Health Administration's Corporate Data Warehouse. STUDY DESIGN: We use pre-pandemic data to estimate mortality risk models using five-fold cross-validation and quasi-Poisson regression. Models were stratified by a combined race-ethnicity variable and included controls for major comorbidities, demographic characteristics, and county fixed effects. DATA COLLECTION: We queried data for all Veterans residing in the 50 states plus Washington D.C. during 2016-2020. Veterans were excluded from analyses if they were missing county of residence or race-ethnicity data. Data were then aggregated to the county-year level and stratified by race-ethnicity. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Overall, Veterans' mortality rates were 16% above normal during March-December 2020 which equates to 42,348 excess deaths. However, there was substantial variation by racial and ethnic group. Non-Hispanic White Veterans experienced the smallest relative increase in mortality (17%, 95% CI 11%-24%), while Native American Veterans had the highest increase (40%, 95% CI 17%-73%). Black Veterans (32%, 95% CI 27%-39%) and Hispanic Veterans (26%, 95% CI 17%-36%) had somewhat lower excess mortality, although these changes were significantly higher compared to White Veterans. Disparities were smaller than in the general population. CONCLUSIONS: Minoritized Veterans experienced higher rates excess of mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to White Veterans, though with smaller differences than the general population. This is likely due in part to the long-standing history of structural racism in the United States that has negatively affected the health of minoritized communities via several pathways including health care access, economic, and occupational inequities.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , Humans , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/ethnology , Ethnicity/statistics & numerical data , Hispanic or Latino/statistics & numerical data , Pandemics , United States/epidemiology , Veterans/statistics & numerical data , White/statistics & numerical data , Black or African American/statistics & numerical data , American Indian or Alaska Native/statistics & numerical data , Health Status Disparities , Healthcare Disparities/economics , Healthcare Disparities/ethnology , Healthcare Disparities/statistics & numerical data , Systemic Racism/ethnology , Systemic Racism/statistics & numerical data , Health Services Accessibility , Employment/economics , Employment/statistics & numerical data , Occupations/economics , Occupations/statistics & numerical data
14.
JAMA Netw Open ; 6(5): e2312140, 2023 05 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2320392

ABSTRACT

Importance: During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a substantial increase in the rate of death in the United States. It is unclear whether those who had access to comprehensive medical care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system had different death rates compared with the overall US population. Objective: To quantify and compare the increase in death rates during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic between individuals who received comprehensive medical care through the VA health care system and those in the general US population. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study compared 10.9 million enrollees in the VA, including 6.8 million active users of VA health care (those with a visit in the last 2 years), with the general population of the US, with deaths occurring from January 1, 2014, to December 31, 2020. Statistical analysis was conducted from May 17, 2021, to March 15, 2023. Main Outcomes and Measures: Changes in rates of death from any cause during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 compared with previous years. Changes in all-cause death rates by quarter were stratified by age, sex, race and ethnicity, and region, based on individual-level data. Multilevel regression models were fit in a bayesian setting. Standardized rates were used for comparison between populations. Results: There were 10.9 million enrollees in the VA health care system and 6.8 million active users. The demographic characteristics of the VA populations were predominantly male (>85% in the VA health care system vs 49% in the general US population), older (mean [SD], 61.0 [18.2] years in the VA health care system vs 39.0 [23.1] years in the US population), and had a larger proportion of patients who were White (73% in the VA health care system vs 61% in the US population) or Black (17% in the VA health care system vs 13% in the US population). Increases in death rates were apparent across all of the adult age groups (≥25 years) in both the VA populations and the general US population. Across all of 2020, the relative increase in death rates compared with expected values was similar for VA enrollees (risk ratio [RR], 1.20 [95% CI, 1.14-1.29]), VA active users (RR, 1.19 [95% CI, 1.14-1.26]), and the general US population (RR, 1.20 [95% CI, 1.17-1.22]). Because the prepandemic standardized mortality rates were higher in the VA populations prior to the pandemic, the absolute rates of excess mortality were higher in the VA populations. Conclusions and Relevance: In this cohort study, a comparison of excess deaths between populations suggests that active users of the VA health system had similar relative increases in mortality compared with the general US population during the first 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , Adult , Humans , Male , United States/epidemiology , Female , Cohort Studies , Pandemics , Bayes Theorem , United States Department of Veterans Affairs
15.
J Health Care Poor Underserved ; 33(4): 1821-1843, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2317630

ABSTRACT

We sought to estimate the impact of temporary financial assistance (TFA) for housing-related expenses from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on costs for a variety of health care services. We conducted a retrospective cohort study of Veterans who entered the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program between 10/2015 and 9/2018. We assessed the effect of TFA on health care costs using a multivariable difference-in-difference approach. Outcomes were direct medical costs of health care encounters (i.e., emergency department, outpatient mental health, inpatient mental health, outpatient substance use disorder treatment, and residential behavioral health) in the VA system. Temporary financial assistance was associated with a decrease in ED (-$11, p<.003), outpatient mental health (-$28, p<.001), outpatient substance use disorder treatment (-$25, p<.001), inpatient mental health (-$258, p<.001), and residential behavioral health (-$181, p<.001) costs per quarter for Veterans in the rapid re-housing component of SSVF. These results can inform policy debates regarding proper solutions to housing instability.


Subject(s)
Housing Instability , Ill-Housed Persons , Public Housing , Veterans , Humans , Health Care Costs , Health Expenditures , Ill-Housed Persons/psychology , Housing , Retrospective Studies , Substance-Related Disorders/therapy , United States , United States Department of Veterans Affairs
16.
J Psychiatr Res ; 163: 222-229, 2023 Jul.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2313186

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE: Persons with serious mental illness (SMI: schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder) experience increased risk of mortality after contracting COVID-19 based on the results of several international evaluations. However, information about COVID-19 mortality risk among patients with SMI in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has been limited, precluding identification of protective factors. The current evaluation was conducted to assess COVID-19 mortality risk among VHA patients with SMI and to evaluate potential protective factors in mitigating mortality risk following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. METHODS: National VHA administrative data was used to identify all patients (N = 52,916) who received a positive COVID-19 test result between March 1, 2020, and September 30, 2020. Mortality risk was assessed by SMI status via bivariate comparisons and multivariate regression analyses. RESULTS: In unadjusted analyses, VHA patients with SMI overall and patients with bipolar disorder in particular did not experience increased mortality risk in the 30 days following a positive COVID test, although patients with schizophrenia had increased risk. Within adjusted analyses, patients with schizophrenia remained at increased mortality risk (OR = 1.38), but at reduced levels relative to previous evaluations in other healthcare settings. CONCLUSIONS: Within VHA, patients with schizophrenia, but not those with bipolar disorder, experience increased mortality risk in the 30 days following a positive COVID-19 test. Large integrated healthcare settings such as VHA may offer services which may protect against COVID-19 mortality for vulnerable groups such as persons with SMI. Additional work is needed to identify practices which may reduce the risk of COVID-19 mortality among persons with SMI.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Mental Disorders , Veterans , Humans , Mental Disorders/diagnosis , Veterans Health , COVID-19 Testing
17.
Front Public Health ; 11: 1057586, 2023.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2298535

ABSTRACT

Background: The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is one of the largest providers of telehealth in the United States and continues to lead the way in transforming healthcare services. VHA has been implementing its Whole Health (WH) initiative since 2018, a proactive practice empowering patients to take charge of their health and well-being. A key facilitator of the WH initiative is the WH coach who partners with Veterans to achieve their health-related goals. A gap exists in the literature regarding the understanding of WH coaches' use of telehealth to engage rural-residing Veterans. COVID-19 unexpectedly interrupted in-person VHA delivery of care, including WH coaching which primarily relied on in-person delivery and focused less on telehealth. During the pandemic, WH coaches had to adapt and integrate different modalities to engage their Veteran patients. We examined WH coaches' approaches to extending coaching to rural Veterans via technology, emphasizing the advantages of telehealth, existing gaps in telehealth delivery, and opportunities for telehealth as a coaching modality. Methods: This project was implemented as part of a larger mixed methods evaluation regarding WH coaching for rural Veterans; this manuscript presents the findings from the qualitative data from the larger study. The qualitative dataset is comprised of data collected using three different qualitative methods: four focus groups (n = 11; 3-4 participants per group), in-depth individual interviews (n = 9), and open-ended responses from a national web-based survey (n = 140). Focus group, in-depth interview, and open-ended survey data were collected sequentially and separately analyzed following each wave of data collection. Findings from the three analyses were then collaboratively merged, compared, reorganized, and refined by the evaluation team to create final themes. Results: Three final themes that emerged from the merged data were: (1) Advantages of Telehealth; (2) Telehealth Gaps for Rural Veterans, and (3) Strategies for Bridging Telehealth Gaps. Themes explicate telehealth advantages, gaps, and opportunities for rural Veteran WH coaching. Conclusion: Findings highlight that video telehealth alone is not sufficient for meeting the needs of rural Veterans. Digital technologies hold promise for equalizing health access gaps; however, both human factors and broadband infrastructure constraints continue to require WH coaches to use a mix of modalities in working with rural Veterans. To overcome challenges and bridge gaps, WH coaches should be ready to adopt a blended approach that integrates virtual, in-person, and lower-tech options.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Mentoring , Telemedicine , Veterans , Humans , United States , COVID-19/epidemiology , Telemedicine/methods , Rural Health
18.
PLoS One ; 18(4): e0284520, 2023.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2297165

ABSTRACT

The Coronavirus-19 disease (COVID-19) has claimed over 6.8 million lives since first being reported in late 2019. The virus that causes COVID-19 disease is highly contagious and spreads rapidly. To date, there are no approved prognostic tools that could predict why some patients develop severe or fatal disease outcomes. Early COVID-19 studies found an association between procalcitonin (PCT) and hospitalization or duration of mechanical ventilation and death but were limited by the cohort sizes. Therefore, this study was designed to confirm the associations of PCT with COVID-19 disease severity outcomes in a large cohort. For this retrospective data analysis study, 27,154 COVID-19-positive US veterans with post-infection PCT laboratory test data and their disease severity outcomes were accessed using the VA electronic healthcare data. Cox regression models were used to test the association between serum PCT levels and disease outcomes while controlling for demographics and relevant confounding variables. The models demonstrated increasing disease severity (ventilation and death) with increasing PCT levels. For PCT serum levels above 0.20 ng/ml, the unadjusted risk increased nearly 2.3-fold for mechanical ventilation (hazard ratio, HR, 2.26, 95%CI: 2.11-2.42) and in-hospital death (HR, 2.28, 95%CI: 2.16-2.41). Even when adjusted for demographics, diabetes, pneumonia, antibiotic use, white blood cell count, and serum C-reactive protein levels, the risks remained relatively high for mechanical ventilation (HR, 1.80, 95%CI: 1.67-1.94) and death (HR, 1.76, 95%CI: 1.66-1.87). These data suggest that higher PCT levels have independent associations with ventilation and in-hospital death in veterans with COVID-19 disease, validating previous findings. The data suggested that serum PCT level may be a promising prognostic tool for COVID-19 severity assessment and should be further evaluated in a prospective clinical trial.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Veterans , Humans , Procalcitonin , COVID-19/therapy , Retrospective Studies , Respiration, Artificial , Prospective Studies , Hospital Mortality , Patient Acuity
19.
PLoS One ; 18(4): e0283633, 2023.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2295900

ABSTRACT

IMPORTANCE: United States Veterans are at higher risk for suicide than non-Veterans. Veterans in rural areas are at higher risk than their urban counterparts. The coronavirus pandemic intensified risk factors for suicide, especially in rural areas. OBJECTIVE: To examine associations between Veterans Health Administration's (VA's) universal suicide risk screening, implemented November 2020, and likelihood of Veterans being screened, and receiving follow-up evaluations, as well as post-screening suicidal behavior among patients who used VA mental health services in 2019. METHODS: VA's Suicide Risk Identification Strategy (Risk ID), implemented October 2018, is a national, standardized process for suicide risk screening and evaluation. In November 2020, VA expanded Risk ID, requiring annual universal suicide screening. As such, we are evaluating outcomes of interest before and after the start of the policy among Veterans who had ≥1 VA mental health care visit in 2019 (n = 1,654,180; rural n = 485,592, urban n = 1,168,588). Regression-adjusted outcomes were compared 6 months pre-universal screening and 6, 12 and 13 months post-universal screening implementation. MEASURES: Item-9 on the Patient Health Questionnaire (I-9, VA's historic suicide screener), Columbia- Suicide Severity Risk Scale (C-SSRS) Screener, VA's Comprehensive Suicide Risk Evaluation (CSRE), and Suicide Behavior and Overdose Report (SBOR). RESULTS: 12 months post-universal screening implementation, 1.3 million Veterans (80% of the study cohort) were screened or evaluated for suicide risk, with 91% the sub-cohort who had at least one mental health visit in the 12 months post-universal screening implementation period were screened or evaluated. At least 20% of the study cohort was screened outside of mental health care settings. Among Veterans with positive screens, 80% received follow-up CSREs. Covariate-adjusted models indicated that an additional 89,160 Veterans were screened per month via the C-SSRS and an additional 30,106 Veterans/month screened via either C-SSRS or I-9 post-universal screening implementation. Compared to their urban counterparts, 7,720 additional rural Veterans/month were screened via the C-SSRS and 9,226 additional rural Veterans/month were screened via either the C-SSRS or I-9. CONCLUSION: VA's universal screening requirement via VA's Risk ID program increased screening for suicide risk among Veterans with mental health care needs. A universal approach to screening may be particularly advantageous for rural Veterans, who are typically at higher risk for suicide but have fewer interactions with the health care system, particularly within specialty care settings, due to higher barriers to accessing care. Insights from this program offer valuable insights for health systems nationwide.


Subject(s)
Suicide , Veterans , Humans , United States , Mental Health , United States Department of Veterans Affairs , Suicide/psychology , Veterans/psychology , Veterans Health , Disease Susceptibility
20.
J Med Internet Res ; 25: e43314, 2023 04 24.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2303927

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: Increasing the adoption of digital care tools, including video visits, is a long-term goal for the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). While previous work has highlighted patient-specific barriers to the use of video visits, few have examined how clinicians view such barriers and how they have overcome them during the rapid uptake of web-based care. OBJECTIVE: This study sought input from providers, given their role as critical participants in video visit implementation, to qualitatively describe successful strategies providers used to adapt their practices to a web-based care setting. METHODS: We conducted interviews with 28 VA providers (physicians and nurse practitioners) from 4 specialties that represent diverse clinical services: primary care (n=11), cardiology (n=7), palliative care (n=5), and spinal cord injury (n=5). All interviews were audio recorded and transcribed, and transcripts were reviewed and coded according to an iteratively created codebook. To identify themes, codes were grouped together into categories, and participant comments were reviewed for repetition and emphasis on specific points. Finally, themes were mapped to Expert Recommendations for Implementing Change (ERIC) strategies to identify evidence-based opportunities to support video visit uptake in the VA. RESULTS: Interviewees were mostly female (57%, 16/28), with an average age of 49 years and with 2-20 years of experience working in the VA across 16 unique VA facilities. Most providers (82%, 23/28) worked in urban facilities. Many interviewees (78%, 22/28) had some experience with video visits prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, though a majority (61%, 17/28) had conducted fewer than 50 video visits in the quarter prior to recruitment. We identified four primary themes related to how providers adapt their practices to a web-based care setting: (1) peer-based learning and support improved providers' perceived value of and confidence in video visits, (2) providers developed new and refined existing communication and clinical skills to optimize video visits, (3) providers saw opportunities to revisit and refine team roles to optimize the value of video visits for their care teams, and (4) implementing and sustaining web-based care requires institutional and organizational support. We identified several ERIC implementation strategies to support the use of video visits across the individual-, clinic-, and system-levels that correspond to these themes: (1) individual-level strategies include the development of educational materials and conducting education meetings, (2) clinic-level strategies include identifying champions and revising workflows and professional roles, and (3) system-level strategies include altering incentive structures, preparing implementation blueprints, developing and implementing tools for quality monitoring, and involving executive leadership to encourage adoption. CONCLUSIONS: This work highlights strategies to support video visits that align with established ERIC implementation constructs, which can be used by health care systems to improve video visit implementation.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Delivery of Health Care , Telemedicine , Veterans , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Pandemics , Qualitative Research , United States , United States Department of Veterans Affairs
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