Tailoring Outreach Efforts to Increase Primary Care Use Among Homeless Veterans: Results of a Randomized Controlled Trial

Thomas P. O’Toole, Erin E. Johnson, Matthew L. Borgia, Jennifer Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Homeless individuals often have significant unmet health care needs that are critical to helping them leave homelessness. However, engaging them in primary and mental health care services is often elusive and difficult to achieve. OBJECTIVE: We aimed to increase health-seeking behavior and receipt of health care among homeless Veterans. DESIGN: This was a multi-center, prospective, community-based, two-by-two randomized controlled trial of homeless Veterans. PARTICIPANTS: Homeless Veterans not receiving primary care participated in the study. INTERVENTIONS: An outreach intervention that included a personal health assessment and brief intervention (PHA/BI), and/or a clinic orientation (CO) was implemented. MAIN MEASURE: We measured receipt of primary care within 4 weeks of study enrollment. KEY RESULTS: Overall, 185 homeless Veterans were enrolled: the average age was 48.6 years (SD 10.8), 94.6 % were male, 43.0 % were from a minority population, 12.0 % were unsheltered, 25.5 % were staying in a dusk-to-dawn emergency shelter, 26.1 % were in transitional housing, while 27.7 % were in an unstable, doubled-up arrangement. At one month, 77.3 % of the PHA/BI plus CO group accessed primary care and by 6 months, 88.7 % had been seen in primary care. This was followed by the CO-only group, 50.0 % of whom accessed care in the first 4 weeks, the PHI/BI-only arm at 41.0 % and the Usual Care arm at 30.6 %. Chi-squared tests by group were significant (p <0.001) at both 4 weeks and 6 months. There was no difference in attitudes about care at baseline and 6 months or in use patterns once enrolled in care. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that treatment-resistant/avoidant homeless Veterans can be effectively engaged in primary and other clinical care services through a relatively low intensity, targeted and tailored outreach effort.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)886-898
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of General Internal Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Feb 12 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • community outreach
  • homeless persons
  • patient engagement
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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