BACKGROUND: Recommended annual diabetic retinopathy (DR) screening for people with diabetes has low rates in the USA, especially in underserved populations. Telemedicine DR screening (TDRS) in primary care clinics could expand access and increase adherence. Despite this potential, studies have observed high variability in TDRS rates among clinics and over time, highlighting the need for implementation supports. Previous studies of determinants of TDRS focus on patients' perspectives, with few studies targeting upstream multi-level barriers and facilitators. Addressing this gap, this qualitative study aimed to identify and evaluate multi-level perceived determinants of TDRS in Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), to inform the development of targeted implementation strategies.

METHODS: We developed a theory-based semi-structured interview tool based on the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR). We conducted 22 key informant interviews with professionals involved in TDRS (administrators, clinicians, staff). The interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Reported barriers and facilitators were organized into emergent themes and classified according to CFIR constructs. Constructs influencing TDRS implementation were rated for each study site and compared across sites by the investigators.

RESULTS: Professionals identified 21 main barriers and facilitators under twelve constructs of the five CFIR domains. Several identified themes were novel, whereas others corroborated previous findings in the literature (e.g., lack of time and human resources, presence of a champion). Of the 21 identified themes, 13 were classified under the CFIR’s Inner Setting domain, specifically under the constructs Compatibility and Available Resources. Themes under the Outer Setting domain (constructs External Incentives and Cost) were primarily perceived by administrators, whereas themes in other domains were perceived across all professional categories. Two Inner Setting (Leadership Engagement, Goals and Feedback) and two Process (Champion, Engaging) constructs were found to strongly distinguish sites with high versus low TDRS performance.

CONCLUSIONS: This study classified barriers and facilitators to TDRS as perceived by administrators, clinicians, and staff in FQHCs, then identified CFIR constructs that distinguished high- and low-performance clinics. Implementation strategies such as academic detailing and collection and communication of program data and successes to leadership; engaging of stakeholders through involvement in implementation planning; and appointment of intervention champions may therefore improve TDRS implementation and sustainment in resource-constrained settings.

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Published in Implementation Science Communications, v. 2, issue 1, article no. 54.

© The Author(s). 2021

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

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Funding Information

This study was funded by NCATS UL1TR001998, the University of Kentucky College of Medicine Institutional Physician Scientist Career Development Program; the Diabetes Research Center at Washington University in St. Louis of the National Institutes of Health under award number P30DK020579; and the Cincinnati Eye Institute Foundation Ignite Award (2019 Ed).

Related Content

The datasets generated and/or analyzed during the current study are not publicly available due to participant confidentiality considerations. Aggregate data are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Additional file 1. Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research checklist.

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Additional file 2. Supplementary methods.

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Additional file 3. Complete interview structure.

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Additional file 4. Manifestation of CFIR constructs.