A Telehealth-Enhanced Referral Process in Pediatric Primary Care: A Cluster Randomized Trial

Pediatrics. 2019 Mar;143(3):e20182738. doi: 10.1542/peds.2018-2738. Epub 2019 Feb 15.


: media-1vid110.1542/5984243450001PEDS-VA_2018-2738Video Abstract OBJECTIVES: To improve the mental health (MH) referral process for children referred from primary care to community mental health clinics (CMHCs) by using a community-partnered approach.

Methods: Our partners were a multisite federally qualified health center and 2 CMHCs in Los Angeles County. We randomly assigned 6 federally qualified health center clinics to the intervention or as a control and implemented a newly developed telehealth-enhanced referral process (video orientation to the CMHC and a live videoconference CMHC screening visit) for all MH referrals from the intervention clinics. Our primary outcome was CMHC access defined by completion of the initial access point for referral (CMHC screening visit). We used multivariate logistic and linear regression to examine intervention impact on our primary outcome. To accommodate the cluster design, we used mixed-effect regression models.

Results: A total of 342 children ages 5 to 12 were enrolled; 86.5% were Latino, 61.7% were boys, and the mean age at enrollment was 8.6 years. Children using the telehealth-enabled referral process had 3 times the odds of completing the initial CMHC screening visit compared with children who were referred by using usual care procedures (80.49% vs 64.04%; adjusted odds ratio 3.02 [95% confidence interval 1.47 to 6.22]). Among children who completed the CMHC screening visit, intervention participants took 6.6 days longer to achieve it but also reported greater satisfaction with the referral system compared with controls. Once this initial access point in referral was completed, >80% of eligible intervention and control participants (174 of 213) went on to an MH visit.

Conclusions: A novel telehealth-enhanced referral process developed by using a community-partnered approach improved initial access to CMHCs for children referred from primary care.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02396576.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Community Mental Health Services / methods
  • Community Mental Health Services / standards
  • Community Mental Health Services / trends*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health / standards
  • Mental Health / trends*
  • Pediatrics / methods
  • Pediatrics / standards
  • Pediatrics / trends*
  • Primary Health Care / methods
  • Primary Health Care / standards
  • Primary Health Care / trends*
  • Referral and Consultation / standards
  • Referral and Consultation / trends*
  • Telemedicine / methods
  • Telemedicine / standards
  • Telemedicine / trends*

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02396576