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Improving HIV Care: UNMC ID’s Telehealth Intervention Receives National Recognition

Earlier this month, the Specialty Care Clinic’s telehealth intervention plan was recognized and published as a ‘Best Practice’ on TargetHIV.org. This achievement follows from extensive research into existing patients utilizing the telehealth platform and confirmed that HIV care delivered via phone or video chat can be just as effective as care provided in a clinic for patients who prefer it. Read on for the details about Target HIV, best practices, and how the COVID-19 pandemic changed how effective HIV care could be offered at Nebraska Medicine.

What is TargetHIV?

From their webpage, “The TargetHIV website is the one-stop shop for technical assistance and training resources for HRSA’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program (RWHAP), the federal program that funds local and state agencies to deliver HIV care for people with HIV who are uninsured or underinsured.

Essentially, TargetHIV is a nationally recognized resource for clinics looking to improve care of patients living with HIV.

What are Best Practices?

In short, ‘Best Practices’ are exactly that: documented successes in HIV care which are published on the TargetHIV webpage so others can learn from and implement similar interventions. This section gathers and shares what works in RWHAP-funded settings to improve outcomes for people with HIV and to support replication by others.

Why did the Specialty Care Clinic start to trial telehealth care?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, HIV clinics had to transform care delivery for people with HIV, with many clinics transitioning rapidly to alternative methods such as telehealth. In March 2020, SCC recognized the need to adjust its clinic operations to promote patient and staff safety during the pandemic. This adjustment, limiting in-person interactions, conflicted with the clinic’s usual approach to promoting retention in care and viral suppression, which relied on patients making frequent visits to the clinic not only for clinical care but also for ongoing medication adherence and case management support. Prior to March 2020, SCC did not offer telehealth services.

How did it go?

Great! Analysis of the first six months of telehealth offerings (around the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic) revealed that 35% of visits utilized telehealth technology. In all patients, viral suppression rates were high, but telehealth patients actually maintained a higher rate of viral suppression than patients who visited the clinic in-person during the same time period. This indicates that telehealth HIV care can be highly effective for those patients who choose it.

What else can I find on the Specialty Care Clinic Telehealth Best Practices webpage?

The SCC published all the information that another clinic might find useful when implementing telehealth for their patients, including planning and implementation tips for setting up telehealth, lessons learned during this trial phase, and additional resources for those looking to get started. Check it out here for more information

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