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Quick Review of NERSCIC Model System Research 

Care Call: A First Look at a Telephone Program for Persons with Spinal Cord Injury 1

What is the study about? 

Our team developed Care Call to test the effectiveness of a telephone-based program designed to reduce pressure sores and depression, and increase the use of healthcare for people with spinal cord issues. The telephone program uses a computer to have a conversation with the participant that provides education, support, and useful resources. 

Who participated in the study? 

Researchers enrolled 142 participants from Massachusetts and Connecticut. Adults living with spinal cord injury (SCI) and multiple sclerosis (MS) and use a wheelchair for more than 6 hours a day were eligible to participate in the study. 

How was the study conducted? 

Participants were randomly put into one of two groups, with a 50/50 chance of being in either group. Those in the intervention group (n=71) received the resource book and weekly automated calls from the Care Call program for 6 months, and could call into Care Call at any time. The control group (n=71) received their usual care and a resource book containing information and local resources, but did not receive any automated phone calls. The team tested if Care Call worked by recording any pressure sores, screening for depression, and collecting participants’ reports of healthcare use, including emergency rooms visits and hospital stays, for both groups. 

What did the study find?

Results showed that women in the Care Call group had fewer pressure sores after 6 months in the study. Similarly, participants in the Care Call group who started out with depression reported less severe depression after being in the study for 6 months. Although the Care Call program did increase participants’ report of being able to get healthcare when they needed it, there was no change in how often they used healthcare by the end of the study.

What does this mean for you?

It is possible that programs like Care Call could be helpful in preventing pressure sores and lowering depression for people with spinal cord issues. To be sure a program such as Care Call can really make a difference for people living with spinal cord issues, this study needs to be repeated with a larger number of participants. NERSCIC is currently conducting a study to test the effectiveness of a similar telephone-based program that aims to empower participants with spinal cord injuries so that they can reach healthcare related goals with the help of Peer Health Coaching. For more information go to http://www.bu.edu/nerscic/research/currently-recruiting/.

The contents of this quick review were developed under a grant (number H133N120002) from the U.S. Department of Education, National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.

Houlihan, B., Jette, A., Friedman, R., Paasche-Orlow, M., Ni, P., Wierbicky, J., Williams, K., Ducharme, S., Zazula, J., Cuevas, P., Rosenblum, D., and Williams, S. (2013). A pilot study of a telehealth intervention for persons with spinal cord dysfunction. Spinal Cord, 51, 715-720. doi: 10.1038/sc.2013.45

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