Telepsychiatric Consultation as a Training and Workforce Development Strategy for Rural Primary Care

Morhaf Al Achkar, Ian M Bennett, Lydia Chwastiak, Theresa Hoeft, Tre Normoyle, Melinda Vredevoogd, Davis G Patterson
Annals of Family Medicine 2020, 18 (5): 438-445

PURPOSE: There is a shortage of rural primary care personnel with expertise in team care for patients with common mental disorders. Building the workforce for this population is a national priority. We investigated the feasibility of regular systematic case reviews through telepsychiatric consultation, within collaborative care for depression, as a continuous training and workforce development strategy in rural clinics.

METHODS: We developed and pilot-tested a qualitative interview guide based on a conceptual model of training and learning. We conducted individual semistructured interviews in 2018 with diverse clinical and nonclinical staff at 3 rural primary care sites in Washington state that used ongoing collaborative care and telepsychiatric consultation. Two qualitative researchers independently analyzed transcripts with iterative input from other research team members.

RESULTS: A total of 17 clinical, support, and administrative staff completed interviews. Participants' feedback supported the view that telepsychiatric case review-based consultation enhanced skills of diverse clinical team members over time, even those who had not directly participated in case reviews. All interviewees identified specific ways in which the consultations improved their capacity to identify and treat psychiatric disorders. Perceived benefits in implementation and sustainability included fidelity of the care process, team resilience despite member turnover, and enhanced capacity to use quality improvement methods.

CONCLUSIONS: Weekly systematic case reviews using telepsychiatric consultation served both as a model for patient care and as a training and workforce development strategy in rural primary care sites delivering collaborative care. These are important benefits to consider in implementing the collaborative care model of behavioral health integration.

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