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Telemed J E Health. 2018 Oct;24(10):742-748. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2017.0184. Epub 2018 Jan 17.

Clinical Inertia in a Randomized Trial of Telemedicine-Based Chronic Disease Management: Lessons Learned.

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1 Richmond Diabetes and Endocrinology, Bon Secours Medical Group , Richmond, Virginia.
2 Endocrinology Service, Guadalupe Regional Medical Center , Seguin, Texas.
3 Center for Health Services Research in Primary Care , Durham VAMC, Durham, North Carolina.
4 Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Duke University , Durham, North Carolina.
5 Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, Duke University , Durham, North Carolina.



Treatment nonadherence and clinical inertia perpetuate poor cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factor control. Telemedicine interventions may counter both treatment nonadherence and clinical inertia.


We explored why a telemedicine intervention designed to reduce treatment nonadherence and clinical inertia did not improve CVD risk factor control, despite enhancing treatment adherence versus usual care.


In this analysis of a randomized trial, we studied recipients of the 12-month telemedicine intervention. This intervention comprised two nurse-administered components: (1) monthly self-management education targeting improved treatment adherence; and (2) quarterly medication management facilitation designed to support treatment intensification by primary care (thereby reducing clinical inertia). For each medication management facilitation encounter, we ascertained whether patients met treatment goals, and if not, whether primary care recommended treatment intensification following the encounter. We assessed disease control associated with encounters, where intensification was/was not recommended.


We examined 455 encounters across 182 intervention recipients (100% African Americans with type 2 diabetes). Even after accounting for valid reasons for deferring intensification (e.g., treatment nonadherence), intensification was not recommended in 67.5% of encounters in which hemoglobin A1c was above goal, 72.5% in which systolic blood pressure was above goal, and 73.9% in which low-density lipoprotein cholesterol was above goal. In each disease state, treatment intensification was more likely with poorer control.


Despite enhancing treatment adherence, this intervention was unsuccessful in countering clinical inertia, likely explaining its lack of effect on CVD risk factors. We identify several lessons learned that may benefit investigators and healthcare systems.


cardiovascular disease risk factors; clinical inertia; diabetes; telemedicine; treatment adherence


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