Experiences of front-line health professionals in the delivery of telehealth: a qualitative study.
MacNeill V., Sanders C., Fitzpatrick R., Hendy J., Barlow J., Knapp M., Rogers A., Bardsley M., Newman SP.
BACKGROUND: Telehealth is an emerging field of clinical practice but current UK health policy has not taken account of the perceptions of front-line healthcare professionals expected to implement it. AIM: To investigate telehealth care for people with long-term conditions from the perspective of the front-line health professional. DESIGN AND SETTING: A qualitative study in three sites within the UK (Kent, Cornwall, and the London Borough of Newham) and embedded in the Whole Systems Demonstrator evaluation, a large cluster randomised controlled trial of telehealth and telecare for patients with long-term and complex conditions. METHOD: Semi-structured qualitative interviews with 32 front-line health professionals (13 community matrons, 10 telehealth monitoring nurses and 9 GPs) involved in the delivery of telehealth. Data were analysed using a modified grounded theory approach. RESULTS: Mixed views were expressed by front-line professionals, which seem to reflect their levels of engagement. It was broadly welcomed by nursing staff as long as it supplemented rather than substituted their role in traditional patient care. GPs held mixed views; some gave a cautious welcome but most saw telehealth as increasing their work burden and potentially undermining their professional autonomy. CONCLUSION: Health care professionals will need to develop a shared understanding of patient self-management through telehealth. This may require a renegotiation of their roles and responsibilities.