Depression Care Services and Telehealth Technology Use for Homebound Elderly in the United States

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Objectives: Despite the increasing evidence for the effectiveness of telehealth technology in screening and treating depression in older adults, they have been slowly adopted by Home Health Care (HHC) agencies. Therefore, this study was conducted to determine how HHC agencies perceive and use telehealth technology for depression care among homebound older adult patients.

Methods: Five-hundred-and-sixteen staff from the National Association for Homecare & Hospice (NAHC) member home health care agencies completed the online survey. Questions were asked of HHC staff regarding performance expectancy, effort expectancy, social influences, facilitating conditions, telehealth use and intention to use/continue to use telehealth.

Results: The majority had a neutral or positive perception towards telehealth. However, participants from agencies that have yet to use telehealth (mean: 3.25, SD: 1.56) reported a less intention to use the technology for depression care versus those from agencies that did (mean: 4.64, SD: 1.37). This may be partially explained by the finding that only 32% perceived themselves as having the knowledge and 25% as having resources to use telehealth. Additionally, facilitating conditions and social influences were significant predictors of intention to use/continue to use telehealth for depression care (p-values < .01).

Conclusion: Overall, staff had a neutral or positive perception towards telehealth. Factors such as fewer years of experience in using telehealth and a small annual budget may explain a negative perception towards telehealth. Therefore, further education and resources are needed to support telehealth use. Future studies may consider comparing telehealth programs and identifying supporting policies.