Background: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated efforts to deploy and regulate medical teleconsultation in Brazil. Studying the Brazilian Unified Public Health System (SUS) experiences in implementing teleconsultations can help to inform their sustainability. This study identifies the changes required to integrate specialized teleconsultation in local workflows in SUS.
Methods: A case study of teleconsultation performed by a University Hospital and a Municipal Specialty Outpatient Clinic in the south of Brazil collected information from two focus groups with specialised doctors, two key informant interviews and associated documents. The Non-adoption, Abandonment, Scale-up, Spread, and Sustainability (NASSS) framework domains of condition, technology, proposal value, users and organization informed a qualitative thematic analysis of this data.
Results: Several forms of teleconsultation were used to manage paediatrics and endocrine conditions including instant messaging, WhatsApp, telephone calls and video consultations which were also used for dermatology. In Brazil, telephone interactions are not considered teleconsultation. In contrast, video consultations were longer than face-to-face appointments, facilitate the understanding and evaluation of conditions, and offered continuity of care, comfort, and safety, without the need for patients to travel, reducing the risk of infection. Patients accepted video consultations to varying degrees but some found it difficult to use the technology. The willingness of doctors to provide any form of teleconsultation was important. Management support was key to defining workflows, coordinating care pathways, and providing technical support.
Conclusions: This study highlights particularities of teleconsultation uptake for the included specialities. The NASSS framework provides a useful means of identifying the changes to enable teleconsultation continuity for specialised care in SUS.
- Remote consultation
- Secondary care
- Unified health system