A Clinical Process Support System for Primary Care to Address Family Stress

  • End date
    Aug 31, 2021
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Total Child Health, Inc.
Updated on 22 July 2020
Barbara Howard, MD
Primary Contact
Total Child Health (9.3 mi away) Contact


This project is to create and test a "clinical process support system" that will improve the ability of primary child health care providers (PCPs) to screen for and address family stressors during routine child health visits that are associated with negative child outcomes in a manner that is feasible and acceptable to both clinicians and parents.


This project is to create and test a "clinical process support system" that will improve the ability of primary child health care providers (PCPs) to screen for and address family stressors during routine child health visits that are associated with negative child outcomes in a manner that is feasible and acceptable to both clinicians and parents. The family stressors assessed include: intimate partner violence (IPV), parental depression, parental stress, food insecurity, parental substance use and harsh punishment of the child. The system is designed to overcome known obstacles to addressing these issues during routine well child visits. These obstacles include: lack of PCP training in an evidence-based approach to the interview (e.g., motivational interviewing); lack of time; low parental expectations for addressing sensitive family issues during routine child "physicals"; and the usual absence of co-located mental health providers. The new Family Stress module will build on two foundations: 1) previous studies of screening using the Safe Environment for Every Kid (SEEK) tool, which showed reduced child maltreatment outcomes in two Randomized Control Trials; and 2) an existing online screening and decision support system (CHADIS). The goals are to support parents in reducing family risk and the exposure of the young child to their own Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), including child maltreatment.

The innovations in this method of addressing family stressors and overcoming the above obstacles include:

  1. Time efficiencies. Time is saved through pre-visit online data collection, saving both interview and clinical documentation time and staff time saved for patient education and needed referrals.
  2. Creating the environment for psychosocial care. This is done through a combination of pre-visit questionnaires with agenda broadening questions (best and hardest parts of parenting), inclusion of parental background from Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and Positive Childhood Experiences inquiries in clinical discussions; individualized text and resources for the family in the Care Portal; milestones to "celebrate" in each child's "MemoryBook"; and empathetic and reflective responses from the PCP.
  3. Efficient training. Training is done using innovative "moment of care" teleprompters created instantly in response to the individual parent issues from the pre-visit tools to support the difficult conversations and a motivational interview begun by the computer needed to move families towards services.
  4. Care communication. Practices will be able to share data with their own colocated services or be linked electronically with outside local resources using a unique online "consent to share information" functionality that also facilitates determining if the referral appointment was completed. Visit notes and documentation of attendance at a consultation will be shared with consent between the PCP and referral agency or professional to facilitate two-way communication for coordinated care.

Design: A cluster randomized quality improvement intervention using the clinical process support family stress module in routine care for children 0-3 years will be conducted in 30 primary care practices. The project will enroll as many 0-4 month olds as possible and follow them to age 24 months and a cohort of 18-24 month olds as controls using online consent (not requiring staff time). For this 2.5 year project the study staff will ask physicians and office staff to complete a one hour online training, offices to notify parents to complete CHADIS when scheduling well-child visits for children 0-3 years old with the questionnaire assignments for the project including Family Assessment of Safety and Stress (FASS), and primary care clinicians to use the CHADIS Family Stress module including the care coordination functionality during the visits when that site is randomized to the intervention period. At the end of the project the study requires clinicians to complete a survey and provide information from the medical records for participating children about immunization completion and missed visits. This information can be collected in a variety of ways depending on each electronic record.

Outcomes: The outcomes anticipated for the proposed study include improved parent connection to services and parent-child relationships, and reduced family stressors, child behavior problems, harsh punishment, and Child Protection referrals for abuse and neglect. Expected outcomes include that higher parent satisfaction with the enhanced clinical process will result in lower rates of missed visits and delayed immunizations. These results should provide evidence of the effectiveness of PCP screening and referral to reduce family stressors and the evidence needed for full United States Preventive Services Task Force endorsement of this clinical process support tool for reducing child maltreatment.

Treatment Family Stress Module Intervention
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03700697
SponsorTotal Child Health, Inc.
Last Modified on22 July 2020

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Inclusion Criteria

Is your age between 1 yrs and 2 yrs?
Gender: Male or Female
Do you have any of these conditions: Social Determinants of Health or Child abuse?
Parents and their children 1 month to 4 months at enrollment
Parents and their children 16-20 months for comparison group
Primary Care Providers of any age

Exclusion Criteria

Unable to speak and read English
Clear my responses

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