Teleconsultations and their implications for health care: A qualitative study on patients’ and physicians’ perceptions

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Abstract

Background: Digitization in everyday medical practice has gained importance along with the drive to expand teleconsultations arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous qualitative research on teleconsultations has focused on synchronous communication between patients and clinicians. This study aims to explore physicians’ and patients’ perspectives on the adoption of teleconsultations between primary care and the referral cardiology department. Methods: Participants were recruited for semi-structured interviews between September 2019 and January 2020. The interviews were audio-recorded and pseudonymized. The transcribed interviews were stored, coded, and content analysis was performed in MAXQDA. Results: A total of 29 participants were interviewed. Patients and physicians merged in their views on ‘process’ issues, i.e., those concerning a better prioritization of patients and an improved collaborative practice, albeit with possible technological constraints. Physicians recognized that teleconsultations presented an educational opportunity for managing patients’ health problems. Our findings suggest that not all patients would require equally intensive collaborative activities across the health system. The barriers described included difficulties using the system (technical issues) and concerns about workload as a consequence of the disruption of traditional clinical routines. Increasing the range of collaborative strategies available to health care providers may require a broader assessment of the way that care processes are structured between levels of care. Patients revealed strong support for teleconsultation on the grounds of interprofessional collaboration and avoidance of unnecessary hospital visits. Conclusions: The implementation of teleconsultations between levels of care may be facilitated when patients, caregivers and physicians see the added value of this service, that adequate resources are put in place and that there is flexible implementation. This work adds an in-depth understanding of participants’ perceptions of this intervention in a case study. Obtaining context-dependent knowledge will help program leaders better understand how to establish telemedicine services as a real-world sustainable option.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104751
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Informatics
Volume162
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Keywords

  • Primary health care
  • Qualitative research
  • Referral
  • Teleconsultations

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