“Good as can be in the circumstances”: a qualitative study to explore clinicians’ and patients’ experiences and attitudes toward telehealth consultations

Dr Karen Borschmann1, Dr Renee Clapham1, Ms Michelle Proctor1, Ms Tanya Gilliver1, Ms Karella De Jongh1, Ms Melinda Collins1, Ms Penny Lording1, Ms Rita Kinsella1, Ms Kate Brooks1, Ms Kate Fox1, Ms Adrienne Munro1

1St Vincent’s Hospital (Melbourne), Fitzroy, Australia

Background
COVID19 forced the rapid transition to delivery of Allied Health services via telehealth at St Vincent’s Hospital (Melbourne) during lockdown (July- October 2020). Despite local and State Government aims to continue telehealth delivery at higher than pre-pandemic rates, our Allied Health telehealth appointment numbers reduced post-lockdown.

Aim
To examine experiences and attitudes of Allied Health clinicians and patients towards telehealth, to inform service developments.

Method
Allied Health patients and clinicians who used telehealth were invited to complete a survey of demographics, prior experience and ease of telehealth, benefits and challenges of telehealth compared to in-person appointments. Each service (hand therapy, nutrition, physiotherapy, podiatry, social work, and speech pathology) collected data for one month in early 2021. Data were analysed descriptively, with content analysis of qualitative data.

Results
The first 10 patient respondents were median age 68 (IQR 52, 70). 90% had used telehealth prior to survey and 70% preferred in-person appointments. Overall, respondents supported telehealth as an adjunct to in-person service delivery. Convenience of not having to travel long distances, especially with restricted mobility was the main benefit reported by patients. Staff (n=8) valued the provision of virtual appointments when no hands-on treatment was required, and highlighted benefits of being able to provide specialist outreach services when telehealth included regional clinicians. Technology (limited hardware and inconsistent network capacity) and completion of physical assessments were reported challenges.

Conclusion
Clinicians and patients reported that telehealth is a viable treatment option for many Allied Health services to supplement, not replace, in-person interactions.


Biography:

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