Outcomes of a Telehealth Intervention for Homebound Older Adults with Heart or Chronic Respiratory Failure: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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Purpose: Telehealth care is emerging as a viable intervention model to treat complex chronic conditions, such as heart failure (HF) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and to engage older adults in self-care disease management. Design and Methods:  We report on a randomized controlled trial examining the impact of a multifaceted telehealth intervention on health, mental health, and service utilization outcomes among homebound medically ill older adults diagnosed with HF or COPD. Random effects regression modeling was used, and we hypothesized that older adults in the telehealth intervention (n = 51) would receive significantly better quality of care resulting in improved scores in health-related quality of life, mental health, and satisfaction with care at 3 months follow-up as compared with controls (n = 51) and service utilization outcomes at 12 months follow-up. Results:  At follow-up, the telehealth intervention group reported greater increases in general health and social functioning, and improved in depression symptom scores as compared with usual care plus education group. The control group had significantly more visits to the emergency department than the telehealth group. There was an observed trend toward fewer hospital days for telehealth participants, but it did not reach significance at 12 months. Implications: Telehealth may be an efficient and effective method of systematically delivering integrated care in the home health sector. The use of telehealth technology may benefit homebound older adults who have difficulty accessing care due to disability, transportation, or isolation.