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An experimental virtual home care model achieved positive outcomes for community-dwelling veterans who live far from US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) healthcare facilities.

The study, conducted by the VA, Indiana University School of Medicine and research organization Regenstrief Institute analyzed patients’ results under a care model called TeleGRACE. This is a virtual care-focused extension of the Geriatric Resources for Assessment and Care of Elders (GRACE) program, which provides comprehensive home-based evaluation and management for older veterans. The two programs provide all of the same services, but TeleGRACE is able to reach more beneficiaries since it is enabled virtually, according to the study’s authors.

“We were able to successfully convert an in-person home visit, conducted by nurse practitioners and social workers, to a hybrid-virtual model where we had a telehealth technician in the patient’s home working virtually with the nurse practitioner and social worker to provide care,” Dawn Bravata, MD, a co-principal investigator and senior author of the study, said in a statement. “Having the telehealth technician drive to patients’ homes allowed the nurse practitioners and social workers to telework, which gave them more time to provide patient care.”

The traditional GRACE program has received praise for its ability to improve veterans’ health and care satisfaction. In a previous study, GRACE was found to have reduced hospital readmissions by 15% and emergency room visits by 7.1%. However, GRACE can only reach veterans who live within 20 miles of a VA facility. TeleGRACE is more flexible, reaching patients who live within 60 miles of a VA facility, according to its recent study.

And though it is focused primarily on virtual care, TeleGRACE recipients reported relatively few issues connecting with healthcare providers. That was mainly due to the use of telehealth technicians — non-medical workers who travel to patients’ homes to facilitate virtual visits.

“Previous studies have identified that geriatric patients have difficulty connecting with virtual healthcare. The TeleGRACE program overcomes many of these issues,” Bravata said. “For example, consider patients with visual or hearing impairment or perhaps mild cognitive impairment — it’s helpful to have the telehealth technician physically in the homes troubleshooting equipment and providing assistance.”

This story originally appeared in McKnight’s Home Care.