'The face of the programme': How local clinicians shape decisions about eligibility for a national caregiver support programme in the USA.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the causes of variation for determining clinical eligibility for a national caregiver programme in the US Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and so help inform standardization of clinical eligibility assessment for support and establish conditions for more consistent caregiver experiences across the USA. METHODS: We used mixed methods, including a national survey of caregiver support coordinators (CSCs) across VHA medical centres, semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of 53 CSCs and interdisciplinary team members, and observations of four VHA medical centre sites. RESULTS: A majority (70%) of CSCs across VHA medical centres reported that they used interdisciplinary teams to conduct assessments. Interdisciplinary teams were seen to help mitigate potential harm to therapeutic relationships from eligibility decisions. Survey respondents reported using a range of assessment tools provided by the national VHA Caregiver Support Program office, but participants expressed concerns that the tools did not necessarily effectively assess clinical need. Some local sites had developed innovative person-centered approaches, in which the assessment process provided an opportunity to assess veterans' holistic clinical needs, in contrast to a programme-centered approach, which focused on assessing whether veterans/their caregivers meet eligibility criteria. CONCLUSION: Discretion by those involved in making decisions on programme eligiblity is important for implementing a national social services programme based on clinical need. Interdisciplinary teams can help mitigate potential harm to therapeutic relationships. Discretion allows for innovation. This work has implications for setting policy in other programme contexts in which applying eligibility criteria requires clinical judgement.
Sperber, NR; Bruening, R; Dadolf, J; Miller, K; Henius, J; Kabat, M; Perez, J; Houtven, CHV
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