Telehealth Behavioral Intervention for Diabetes Management in Adults With Physical Disabilities: Intervention Fidelity Protocol for a Randomized Controlled Trial (Preprint)

Academic Article



    Diabetes mellitus is a major health problem among people with physical disabilities. Health coaching has been proven to be an effective approach in terms of behavioral changes, patient self-efficacy, adherence to treatment, health service use, and health outcomes. Telehealth systems combined with health coaching have the potential to improve the quality of health care by increasing access to services. Treatment fidelity is particularly important for behavior change studies; however, fidelity protocols are inadequately administered and reported in the literature.


    The aim of this study is to outline all the intervention fidelity strategies and procedures of a telecoaching intervention—artificial intelligence for diabetes management (AI4DM)—which is a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a telehealth platform in adults with type 2 diabetes and permanent impaired mobility. AI4DM aims to create a web-based disability-inclusive diabetes self-management program. We selected the National Institutes of Health Behavior Change Consortium (NIH BCC) fidelity framework to describe strategies to ensure intervention fidelity in our research.


    We have developed fidelity strategies based on the five fidelity domains outlined by the NIH BCC—focusing on study design, provider training, treatment delivery, treatment receipt, and enactment of treatment skills. The design of the study is grounded in the social cognitive theory and is intended to ensure that both arms would receive the same amount of attention from the intervention. All providers will receive standardized training to deliver consistent health coaching to the participants. The intervention will be delivered through various controlling and monitoring strategies to reduce differences within and between treatment groups. The content and structure of the study are delivered to ensure comprehension and participation among individuals with low health literacy. By constantly reviewing and monitoring participant progress and protocol adherence, we intend to ensure that participants use cognitive and behavioral skills in real-world settings to engage in health behavior.


    Enrollment for AI4DM will begin in October 2021 and end in October 2022. The results of this study will be reported in late 2022.


    Developing and using fidelity protocols in behavior change studies is essential to ensure the internal and external validity of interventions. This study incorporates NIH BCC recommendations into an artificial intelligence embedded telecoaching platform for diabetes management designed for people with physical disabilities. The developed fidelity protocol can provide guidance for other researchers conducting telehealth interventions within behavioral health settings to present more consistent and reproducible research.




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    Author List

  • Zengul A; Evans E; Hall A; Qu H; Willig A; Cherrington A; Thirumalai M