HumanInsight Effectiveness and Financial Viability of Telehealth Physician Extenders for Re-Engagement of Patients with Diabetic Retinopathy
Telemed J E Health. 2023 Jan 13. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2022.0334. Online ahead of print.
Purpose: To assess the effectiveness and financial implications of employing a telehealth physician extender program to re-engage patients with diabetic retinopathy (DR) who are lost to follow-up (LTF). Methods: Established patients with DR unevaluated in the prior 12 months were identified as LTF, and randomized to receive a recall intervention or standard operating procedure (SOP). For the intervention, a telehealth physician extender performed outbound calls, offering each patient a symptom screening questionnaire following a physician-directed escalation pathway and assistance in scheduling a return appointment. All patients retained the ability to schedule an appointment by means of SOP. Appointment schedule and adherence rates were assessed 30 days after a 6-week intervention period. Call times were digitally measured to estimate intervention labor cost. Results: Four hundred twenty-five of 2,514 established patients with DR were LTF (17%). One hundred fifty-seven patients were assigned to the intervention group; the remaining 268 formed the SOP group. Sixty-six outbound calls reached patients (42%). At the time of program assessment, the intervention group demonstrated a higher rate of appointment scheduling (31% vs. 14%, p < 0.001) and adherence (14% vs. 7%, p = 0.020). The measured call duration was 2.3 ± 1.9 min, yielding an estimated cost of US$4.70 per appointment scheduled. Conclusion: Re-engagement by a telehealth physician extender improves the rate at which patients with DR return for eye care, and can be done at a reasonable cost. This method of improving adherence with follow-up should be readily translatable to other health care settings.
PMID:36637801 | DOI:10.1089/tmj.2022.0334
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