Promoting continuity of care for homeless adults with unmet health needs: The role of brief interventions

Promoting timely and continuous care for people experiencing homelessness has been a challenge in many jurisdictions, plagued by access barriers and service fragmentation. As part of a larger programme evaluation, this study used qualitative methods to examine the role of a brief interdisciplinary intervention in supporting continuity of care for this population in a large Canadian urban centre. The intervention provides time-limited case management, primary and psychiatric care, and peer accompaniment to homeless adults with unmet health needs discharged from hospital. Data were collected from 52 study participants between July 2013 and December 2014. Three focus groups were conducted with service providers and people with lived experience of homelessness, and 29 individual, semi-structured interviews were conducted with service users and other key informants. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. Analysis was informed by existing frameworks for continuity of care, while remaining open to additional or unexpected findings. Findings suggest that brief interdisciplinary interventions can promote continuity of care by offering low-barrier access, timely and responsive service provision, including timely connection to long-term services and supports, appropriate individualised services and effective co-ordination of services. Although brief interdisciplinary interventions were perceived to promote access, timeliness and co-ordination of care for this population with complex health and social needs, gaps in the local service delivery context can present persisting barriers to care comprehensiveness and continuity.

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Health and Social Care in the Community