Implementation for Sustained Impact in Teleophthalmology (I-SITE): applying the NIATx Model for tailored implementation of diabetic retinopathy screening in primary care

Implement Sci Commun. 2021 Jul 6;2(1):74. doi: 10.1186/s43058-021-00175-0.


Background: Teleophthalmology provides evidence-based, telehealth diabetic retinopathy screening that is underused even when readily available in primary care clinics. There is an urgent need to increase teleophthalmology use in the US primary care clinics. In this study, we describe the development of a tailored teleophthalmology implementation program and report outcomes related to primary care provider (PCP) adoption.

Methods: We applied the 5 principles and 10 steps of the NIATx healthcare process improvement model to develop and test I-SITE (Implementation for Sustained Impact in Teleophthalmology) in a rural, the US multi-payer health system. This implementation program allows patients and clinical stakeholders to systematically tailor teleophthalmology implementation to their local context. We aligned I-SITE components and implementation strategies to an updated ERIC (Expert Recommendations for Implementing Change) framework. We compared teleophthalmology adoption between PCPs who did or did not participate in various components of I-SITE. We surveyed PCPs and clinical staff to identify the strategies they believed to have the highest impact on teleophthalmology use.

Results: To test I-SITE, we initiated a year-long series of 14 meetings with clinical stakeholders (n=22) and met quarterly with patient stakeholders (n=9) in 2017. Clinical and patient stakeholder groups had 90.9% and 88.9% participant retention at 1 year, respectively. The increase in teleophthalmology use was greater among PCPs participating in the I-SITE implementation team than among other PCPs (p < 0.006). The proportion of all PCPs who used the implementation strategy of electing diabetic eye screening for their annual performance-based financial incentive increased from 0% (n=0) at baseline to 56% (n=14) following I-SITE implementation (p = 0.004). PCPs and clinical staff reported the following implementation strategies as having the highest impact on teleophthalmology use: reminders to ask patients about diabetic eye screening during clinic visits, improving electronic health record (EHR) documentation, and patient outreach.

Conclusions: We applied the NIATx Model to develop and test a teleophthalmology implementation program for tailored integration into primary care clinics. The NIATx Model provides a systematic approach to engaging key stakeholders for tailoring implementation of evidence-based telehealth interventions into their local context.

Keywords: Implementation development; Implementation intervention; NIATx Model; Primary care; Retinal screening; Rural; Stakeholder engagement; Systems engineering; Tailored implementation; Telemedicine.