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HIV, randomized trial, telehealth, veterans

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Background: Telehealth may improve care for people with HIV who live far from HIV specialty clinics. We conducted a cluster-randomized evaluation to determine the impact of availability of HIV telehealth programs on documented viral suppression in Veterans Administration clinics. Methods: In 2015–2016, people who previously traveled to HIV specialty clinics were offered telehealth visits in nearby primary care clinics. Patients were cluster-randomized to immediate telehealth availability (n = 925 patients in service areas of 13 primary care clinics offering telehealth) or availability 1 year later (n = 745 patients in 12 clinics). Measures during the evaluation year included telehealth use among patients in areas where telehealth was available and documented HIV viral suppression (viral load performed and /mL). Impact of telehealth availability was determined using intention-to-treat (ITT) analyses that compared outcomes for patients in areas where telehealth was available with outcomes for patients where telehealth was not available, regardless of telehealth use. Complier average causal effects (CACEs) compared outcomes for telehealth users with outcomes for control patients with equal propensity to use telehealth, when available. Results: Overall, 120 (13.0%) patients utilized telehealth when it was available. Availability of telehealth programs led to small improvements in viral suppression in ITT analyses (78.3% vs 74.1%; relative risk [RR], 1.06; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.01 to 1.11) and large improvements among telehealth users in CACE analyses (91.5% vs 80.0%; RR, 1.14; 95% CI, 1.01 to 1.30). Conclusions: Availability of telehealth programs improved documented viral suppression. HIV clinics should offer telehealth visits for patients facing travel burdens.

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Open Forum Infectious Diseases, v. 6, issue 6, art. ofz206

Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America 2019. This work is written by (a) US Government employee(s) and is in the public domain in the US. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Infectious Diseases Society of America 2019.