BACKGROUND: Delivery of comprehensive care for persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in rural and low prevalence settings presents many challenges. We developed and evaluated a telehealth collaborative care (TCC) program for persons with HIV in a rural area. OBJECTIVE: To determine the feasibility of TCC, and identify factors influencing implementation in rural settings. DESIGN: Mixed methods evaluation of a quality improvement program with pre-measures and post-measures. PATIENTS: Veterans with HIV infection in Iowa and Illinois. INTERVENTION: TCC integrated HIV specialty care delivered by clinical video telehealth, with primary care delivered by generalist providers, in seven Community Based Outpatient Clinics (CBOCs) serving rural areas. Principles guiding TCC design were: 1) clear delineation of specialty and primary care clinic roles in co-managed care; 2) creation of processes to improve care coordination between specialty and primary care teams; and 3) use of a patient registry for population management across sites. MEASURES: Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system performance measures for care for HIV infection and common comorbidities, patient travel time to obtain care, and patient satisfaction. Qualitative evaluation involved semi-structured telephone interviews with patients. KEY RESULTS: Thirty of 32 eligible patients chose TCC over traveling to the HIV clinic for all care. Among 24 patients in TCC during the June 2011-May 2012 evaluation period, median age was 54 (range, 40-79), most (96 %) were men, and median CD4 count was 707 cells/cm3 (range, 233-1307). VA performance measures were met for > 90 % of TCC patients. Median yearly travel time decreased from 320 min per patient prior to TCC to 170 min during TCC (p < 0.001). Interview themes included: 1) overcoming privacy concerns during care in local primary care clinics; 2) tradeoffs between access, continuity, and care coordination; and 3) the role of specialist involvement in collaborative care. DISCUSSION: Telehealth Collaborative Care is a feasible approach to providing accessible and comprehensive care for persons with HIV in rural settings.
- rural health