Evaluation of a national telemedicine initiative in the Veterans Health Administration: Factors associated with successful implementation

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Background The Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research was used to evaluate implementation facilitators and barriers of Specialty Care Access Network-Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (SCAN-ECHO) within the Veterans Health Administration. SCAN-ECHO is a video teleconferencing-based programme where specialist teams train and mentor remotely-located primary care providers in providing routine speciality care for common chronic illnesses. The goal of SCAN-ECHO was to improve access to speciality care for Veterans. The aim of this study was to provide guidance and support for the implementation and spread of SCAN-ECHO. Methods Semi-structured telephone interviews with 55 key informants (primary care providers, specialists and support staff) were conducted post-implementation with nine sites and analysed using Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research constructs. Data were analysed to distinguish sites based on level of implementation measured by the numbers of SCAN-ECHO sessions. Surveys with all SCAN-ECHO sites further explored implementation information. Results Analysis of the interviews revealed three of 14 Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research constructs that distinguished between low and high implementation sites: design quality and packaging; compatibility; and reflecting and evaluating. The survey data generally supported these findings, while also revealing a fourth distinguishing construct - leadership engagement. All sites expressed positive attitudes toward SCAN-ECHO, despite struggling with the complexity of programme implementation. Conclusions Recommendations based on the findings include: (a) expend more effort in developing and distributing educational materials; (b) restructure the delivery process to improve programme compatibility;