Primary Care Providers' Use of a Child Psychiatry Telephone Support Program

Acad Pediatr. 2018 Apr;18(3):266-272. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2017.11.007. Epub 2017 Nov 29.


Background: The Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP) provides telephone support from mental health specialists to primary care providers (PCPs). Understanding PCPs' use may inform implementation of similar programs. We sought to examine PCPs' decision-making process to use or not use MCPAP when encountering mental health problems.

Methods: We analyzed data regarding calls from PCPs to MCPAP from October 1, 2010, to July 31, 2011, and interviewed 14 PCPs with frequent use (≥7 calls) and infrequent use (≤4 calls). PCPs were asked about recent patients with mental health problems, and they were asked to describe reasons for calling or not calling MCPAP. Frequent callers were asked what sustained use; infrequent callers were asked about alternative management strategies. Comparisons were made between these groups in qualitative analysis.

Results: PCPs (n = 993) made 6526 calls (mean = 6.6; median = 3). Factors influencing calling included: MCPAP's guidance is timely and tailored to individual scope of practice; MCPAP's ability to arrange therapy referrals exceeds PCPs' ability; providing a plan at point of care relieves anxious families; and MCPAP's assistance helps accommodate families' preference to keep mental health in primary care. Some infrequent callers had gained skills through MCPAP before 2010 and now called only for complex cases. Other reasons for infrequent calling: PCPs have other consultation sources, have fear of being asked to manage more than they are comfortable, or have misperceptions of MCPAP's offerings.

Conclusions: MCPAP enhanced PCPs' ability to deliver mental health care consistent with families' preferences. PCPs applied knowledge gained from calls to subsequent patients. Promoting MCPAP components through outreach and tailoring guidance to PCPs' scope of practice may entice greater use.

Keywords: mental health; pediatrics; primary care providers; specialty care; telehealth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Child Psychiatry*
  • Community Mental Health Services
  • Humans
  • Pediatricians*
  • Physicians, Family*
  • Physicians, Primary Care
  • Qualitative Research
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Telephone*