A rural doctor's telehealth training program during the COVID-19 pandemic

Alan D. Taylor, Jane Connolly, Christopher Pearce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Introduction: In Australia, remote consultations have been used as an adjunct to traditional healthcare delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic using telephone and video techniques with an increase in the use of telephone consultations, and to a lesser extent video consultations, for management of patient conditions, assessment, treatment, monitoring and diagnosis. 

Methods: To establish the needs of rural doctors for training in the provision of remote consultations, an online survey of members of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine was undertaken. Subsequently an online scenario-based training program was designed to improve the competencies of members in providing these consultations. The outcomes of this program were analysed using pre- and post-intervention surveys, and qualitative analysis of session recordings. 

Results: The program improved trainee confidence and competence in providing safe, quality remote consultations, particularly when using video technologies. Competencies in communication, history taking, physical online examination, clinical management and professionalism improved. Trainees adapted their practice because they were then able to manage potential issues, were more aware of the capabilities of telehealth technologies and could assist a health professional, such as a nurse or Aboriginal Health Worker (with the patient) to do an examination. Concerns remained about set-up time, technical quality, privacy, interaction with and examination of patients, and how to assess the severity of conditions. 

Conclusion: The outcomes of the program showed significant improvement in the levels of confidence and competencies required for providing remote consultations using telehealth services. A need remains to improve virtual interactions with patients, and to acquire better technology and financial support for remote consultations. In an environment where government is asking whether remote consultations are appropriate and clinically effective, these findings provide guidance from a professional group of experienced rural practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8032
Number of pages5
JournalRural and Remote Health
Volume24
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2024

Keywords

  • competencies
  • confidence
  • consultation
  • COVID-19
  • general practice
  • telehealth
  • training
  • Australia

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