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Addiction Science & Clinical Practice

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Health care and disease management, Health care administration, Homeless persons -- Health and hygiene.


Background: Medically complex urban patients experiencing homelessness comprise a disproportionate number of high-cost, high-need patients. There are few studies of interventions to improve care for these populations; their social complexity makes them difficult to study and requires clinical and research collaboration. We present a protocol for a trial of the streamlined unified meaningfully managed interdisciplinary team (SUMMIT) team, an ambulatory ICU (A-ICU) intervention to improve utilization and patient experience that uses control populations to address limitations of prior research.

Methods/design: Participants are patients at a Federally Qualified Health Center in Portland, Oregon that serves patients experiencing homelessness or who have substance use disorders. Participants meet at least one of the following criteria: > 1 hospitalization over past 6 months; at least one medical co-morbidity including uncontrolled diabetes, heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, liver disease, soft-tissue infection; and 1 mental health diagnosis or substance use disorder. We exclude patients if they have < 6 months to live, have cognitive impairment preventing consent, or are non-English speaking. Following consent and baseline assessment, we randomize participants to immediate SUMMIT intervention or wait-list control group. Participants receiving the SUMMIT intervention transfer care to a clinic-based team of physician, complex care nurse, care coordinator, social worker, and pharmacist with reduced panel size and flexible scheduling with emphasis on motivational interviewing, patient goal setting and advanced care planning. Wait-listed participants continue usual care plus engagement with community health worker intervention for 6 months prior to joining SUMMIT. The primary outcome is hospital utilization at 6 months; secondary outcomes include emergency department utilization, patient activation, and patient experience measures. We follow participants for 12 months after intervention initiation.

Discussion: The SUMMIT A-ICU is an intensive primary care intervention for high-utilizers impacted by homelessness. Use of a wait-list control design balances community and staff stakeholder needs, who felt all participants should have access to the intervention, while addressing research needs to include control populations. Design limitations include prolonged follow-up period that increases risk for attrition, and conflict between practice and research; including partner stakeholders and embedded researchers familiar with the population in study planning can mitigate these barriers.


© The Author(s) 2018. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License (

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