Session #E3c
October 5, 2012
Telehealth: Lessons Learned
and a Guide to Successful
Implementation in a
Safety Net Medical System
Natalie Ritchie, PhD, Health Coach
Rachael Meir, PsyD, Director of Health and Wellness Services
Collaborative Family Healthcare Association 14th Annual Conference
October 4-6, 2012 Austin, Texas U.S.A.
Faculty Disclosure
We have not had any relevant financial relationships
during the past 12 months.
• Describe barriers to implementing a telehealth
intervention for underserved populations.
• Identify solutions to implementing telehealth
interventions more effectively for underserved
• Identify strategies to provide integrated,
interdisciplinary care using telehealth interventions.
• Discuss future research needed to develop effective
telehealth practices for use in interdisciplinary
Learning Assessment
A learning assessment is required for CE credit.
Attention Presenters:
Please incorporate audience interaction through a
brief Question & Answer period during or at the
conclusion of your presentation.
This component MUST be done in lieu of a written
pre- or post-test based on your learning objectives to satisfy
accreditation requirements.
• Telehealth is an important emerging modality for healthcare
interventions with potential to remove barriers to care for
underserved populations.
• We implemented a telephonic depression intervention within a
safety net hospital, designed to enhance treatment as usual by
primary care providers.
• Although successful in many areas, we encountered implementation
challenges that demonstrate a need to systematically improve
telehealth methodology for use in underserved populations.
• We propose a preliminary guide for implementing telehealth
interventions within safety net medical systems.
Barriers to Care in Safety Net
Medical Systems
• Institutional barriers:
– Resistance to offering treatment for public insurance or
sliding-scale payment programs (Cook et al., 2007).
– Limited availability of primary and specialty care
appointments (Phillips, Mayer, & Aday, 2000; Cook et al., 2007).
– High no-show rates, which can reduce efficiency and
revenue (Moore, Wilson-Witherspoon, & Probst, 2001).
• Patient barriers:
– Limited insurance or ability to pay treatment costs (Cook et al.,
– Lack of transportation and childcare (Uebelacker, Marootian, Pirraglia,
Primack, Tigue et al., 2011).
– Barriers to mental health treatment further include
stigmatized perceptions of endorsing a behavioral health
“problem” and difficulty disclosing sensitive information
(e.g., Crisp, Gelder, Rix, Meltzer, & Rowlands, 2000).
Telehealth as a Solution
• Telehealth allows institutions to offer more cost-effective care by:
– Lowering costs of administrative and reception personnel, waiting areas, and
patient care rooms.
– Reducing problematic no-show rates – telehealth can be implemented without
a pre-set appointment schedule, allowing clinicians to optimally target
multiple patients at a given time.
• Telehealth benefits patients by:
– Eliminating need for transportation and childcare.
– Increasing access to care through lower costs, provider availability, extended
coverage to underserved geographical regions.
– Reducing stigma associated with being seen in a mental health clinic.
– Facilitating willingness to disclose personal information.
Telephonic Depression Intervention (TDI)
• We used telehealth to increase access to integrated mental health
services for primary care patients suffering from depression.
• Overall aim was to enhance PCP’s treatment of depression by:
(1) Providing evidence-based psychotherapy
(2) Improving adherence to antidepressant medications
(3) Improving depression outcomes
(4) Identifying previously undiagnosed psychiatric comorbidities
(5) Providing feedback to PCPs on depression outcomes and management
• We recruited >300 patients for a 6-month study with half
randomized to receive assessments only (control group) and half to
also receive five therapy calls (intervention group).
Our Recruitment Practices
• Identification:
– PCP-initiated referrals
– Self-referrals
– Pharmacy-generated lists of patients receiving antidepressants from PCPs
• Recruitment:
Post flyers and posters throughout clinics
Circulate electronic newsletters on study aims and progress
Present at clinic meetings
Contact potential participants with up to two phone calls and a letter
• Enrollment:
– Screen for eligibility criteria and complete mental health assessment
– Obtain consent to continue
Enrollment Status from 5/1/11 to 7/1/12 (N = 5,086)
Total identified
No contact attempted
Successful enrollment
Unable to contact
Referral Source
Encourage Provider-Initiated Referrals
• We administered anonymous questionnaires to 41 PCPs:
– 71% referred at least one patient to TDI
– 50% would refer majority of depressed patients in the future
– 39% had difficulty remembering to refer to our program
• Recommendations:
Attend clinic meetings regularly.
Circulate reminder emails and electronic newsletters.
Offer an electronic, automatic referral system.
Obtain more input from PCPs to develop telehealth interventions, so
interventions better meet their needs and patient needs.
– Reinforce provider participation, such as offering recognition to providers
who support program enrollment.
Recommendations for “Cold-Calls”
• Limit initial investment in potential participants:
– Provide telehealth clinicians with access to patient medical records–
allows early disqualification by identifying exclusionary criteria (e.g.,
bipolar disorder) in advance.
– Limit contact attempts to one call.
– Provide clinician contact information and request a call back, rather
than offering to call back, if patient notes inconvenient time.
– Use mass mailings, requesting a response back to indicate interest.
• Out of 120 mailings to pre-identified patients, 38% (n = 45) noted
interest by returning a postcard and/or calling in.
– Consider IVR technology.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
• IVR technology can be used as an efficient recruitment method for large
target populations:
– Informs large samples about available healthcare programs with limited time
– Can create a pre-identified list of interested participants.
• We had overall success using IVR with other departmental programs:
– 38.1% (n = 469) of contacted patients answered and listened to entire
– 12.2% (n = 150) proceeded to take phone survey.
– IVR was most frequently cited method of learning about our programs among
health information seminar attendees (compared to mailings, flyers, etc).
– However, limited use for sign-up process as used.
Our Retention Practices
• Numerous calls required to complete program (up to 10).
• Our initial methodology included scheduling therapy
calls, as consistent with face-to-face counseling practices.
• Contact attempts for each call included up to two phone
calls, followed by a letter requesting a call back.
• Sent mailings in between calls, including symptom
changes and behavioral plans.
• Retention was 72% as of 3/30/12.
– 141 out of 195 completed the study
Retention Recommendations
• Limit length and total number of telehealth calls within the needs of quality
care practices.
• Schedule an appointment window– ask participants to select a block of
available time for the next telehealth call (e.g., Friday from 2-4p).
• Request contact information in advance for two family members or friends
who may be reached to assist in the event of changed or disconnected phone
• Mail letters after unsuccessful contact attempts by phone:
– We sent 87 UTCLS from 2010-2011, which appeared to contribute to retention in
40% (n = 35) cases.
• Encourage providers to reinforce program engagement.
• Provide a flyer with staff photos and names to increase participant rapport
and sense of accountability toward clinicians.
The Telephonic Depression Intervention (TDI) program has been developed by clinicians at
Denver Health to improve the health of patients such as you. We know that patients who
participate in programs like this are likely to experience better outcomes. Participation in
this program will help us track how you are responding to the medications prescribed by
your primary care provider and should help you learn new ways to cope with stress and
Your TDI team thanks you for participating!
Integrating Telehealth Care
• Our practices:
– Emails to PCPs at initial enrollment or disqualification, and 6-, 12-, and 24weeks, including depression severity, medication recommendations, and
– Entered Provider Feedback Report Form into medical records
• 80.5% of PCPs noted reviewing our emails and/or medical record notes
• Recommendations:
– Routinely provide consulting information to PCPs, both in email for
immediate access and medical record for later viewing.
– Provide tips for PCPs to reinforce patient goals.
– Encourage three-way communication between PCP, telehealth clinician, and
– Schedule follow up appointments with PCPs if needed.
Conclusion and Future Directions
• Telehealth has potential to be an effective care modality for underserved
• However, telephonic care is a relatively new treatment modality without
best-established practices of traditional brick-and-mortar clinics.
• We continue to need data-driven evidence to support recruitment,
retention, engagement, and integrated care processes, as well as policy
work to ensure future reimbursement.
• We hope our recommendations offer a guide for implementing telehealth
in safety net medical systems and that ongoing work is conducted to
identify best practices.
Questions and Comments
• Acknowledgements to our research team and contributors:
Joanne Bader, David Brody, Jennifer Cook, Caroline
Corrigan, Laura Finkelstein, Christine Garcia, Rob Keeley,
Courtney Morris, Ben Salazar, Chris Sheldon, David Smith,
Catherine Tilford, and Jeanette Waxmonsky
• Thank you!
Session Evaluation
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evaluation form to the classroom monitor
before leaving this session.
Thank you!

Collaborative Family Healthcare Association