Objective: This study examined the effectiveness of a telephone-based referral care management (TBR-CM) intervention for improving engagement in psychiatric treatment.
Methods: From September 2005 to May 2006, 169 primary care patients at the Philadelphia Veterans Affairs Medical Center completed a psychiatric diagnostic interview and were identified as needing psychiatric care. From this total of eligible patients, 113 (67%) gave informed consent and were randomly assigned to receive either usual care or the intervention. Usual care consisted of participants' being schedule for a behavioral health care appointment, followed by a letter and reminder by telephone. The intervention group received the same, plus one or two brief motivational telephone sessions. Participant interviews and medical records provided study data.
Results: Research participants were primarily African American and 22-83 years old. In the sample, 40 patients (39%) had severe depression, 40 (39%) had substance use problems, and 33 (22%) had co-occurring severe depression and substance abuse. Overall, 40 participants (70%) in the intervention group compared with 18 (32%) in the usual care group engaged in at least one psychiatric treatment appointment (p<.001). Analyses also indicated that on average the intervention group attended more appointments (more than three) compared with the usual care group (less than two) (p=.008).
Conclusions: The TBR-CM intervention program was effective at improving psychiatric treatment engagement. Future research is necessary to examine effectiveness of TBR-CM in more heterogeneous and larger samples and to evaluate economic benefits versus costs of intervention delivery.