Sustaining telehealth services after initial response to COVID-19: Learning from patient and allied health profession experiences at a major tertiary hospital

Dr Michelle Cottrell1, Dr Clare Burns1, Amber  Jones1, Dr Adrienne  Young1, Dr Ann Rahmann1, Sonia Sam1, Mark Cruickshank1, Dr Kelsey Pateman1

1Royal Brisbane And Women’s Hospital, Herston, Australia

Background and aims: While the COVID-19 pandemic initiated a rapid upscaling of telehealth services, challenges in maintaining these service models beyond the initial social distancing restrictions are widely acknowledged. To inform adoption and sustained use of telehealth at RBWH across all allied health professions (AHP), this study aimed to examine patient and AHP perspectives of telehealth use during COVID-19.

Methods: An exploratory mixed-methods approach was undertaken (Oct 2020 to Feb 2021). Surveys were completed by patients (n=109) and AHP clinicians (n=66) who received and provided care via telehealth (specifically videoconferencing), respectively, across six AHP departments from April to June 2020. Focus groups with clinicians (n=24) also identified barriers and improvements to support ongoing telehealth use.

Results: Overall, patients reported a positive telehealth experience, with technology connection issues being the primary challenge. Usability ratings towards the telehealth platform were high and most patients (78%) would like to be offered telehealth for future appointments. Despite acknowledging the value of telehealth (92%) and its legitimacy within their profession (89%), AHPs identified challenges with telehealth that included insufficient resources (e.g. administrative support, infrastructure), technical issues and a lack of time to prepare. Enablers were identified as having prior exposure to telehealth, availability of specific support staff, and ease of telehealth platform use. Improvements suggested included development of formalised staff training, clinical service support frameworks and department specific KPIs.

Conclusion: Despite rapid implementation, patient and AHP telehealth experiences were overall positive. Study findings will be used to generate solutions with managers, clinicians and consumers to further embed, enhance, and sustain telehealth within RBWH AHP clinical services.


Michelle has a clinical background as a Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and currently holds joint positions within the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Physiotherapy Department as the Telehealth Coordinator and Research Coordinator. Her research is primarily focused on the implementation of telehealth into existing clinical services to support equitable and sustainable access to specialised healthcare.

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