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Perceptions of Rural Emergency Department Providers regarding Telehealth-Based Care: Perceived Competency, Satisfaction with Care and Tele-ED Patient Disposition

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DOI: 10.4236/ojn.2017.77054    529 Downloads   1,052 Views Citations


Introduction: This study assesses rural providers’ perceptions of their ability to deliver high quality care via telehealth compared to usual care, and whether attending providers perceive that emergency department (ED) telehealth visits influence clinical reasoning in regard to patient disposition, specifically in tele-behavioral and tele-neurological cases. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted of 134 ED providers (nurses [n = 126] and physicians [n = 8]) who were working in five Midwestern critical access hospitals (response rate 83%). Descriptive, correlational and stepwise regression analyses were employed to evaluate provider perceptions of 1) competency level in telehealth delivery, 2) patient health outcomes, 3) access to continuing education in telehealth, and 4) clinical influence of telehealth visit. Evaluation of preliminary set of N = 100 telehealth cases were assessed for influence of telehealth on clinical reasoning of attending physicians regarding patient disposition. Results: The majority (67%; n = 90) of participants had at least minimal experience with telehealth care delivery, with an average of 1 - 2 visits in teleneurology, and 3 - 4 visits in telebehavioral cases. Providers rated their overall mean competency level in telehealth care delivery as 3.01/5.00 based on a 5 point “novice (1) to expert” (5) scale. Mean scores for providers perceived competency level in 7 evidence-based sub-categories for telehealth care delivery were self-reported as relatively low to mid-range values, ranging from 2.64 - 3.57/5.00. Stepwise linear regression analysis of whether all providers “would recommend telehealth to their family and friends” revealed two predictors for model of best fit (n = 81; p < 0.000; R2 = 0.598): 1) their perceptions of telehealth experience compared to usual care; and 2) perceptions of patient health outcomes with telehealth compared to usual care. Providers rated “neutral” to “very unlikely” that they “would recommend telehealth to family and friends” (2.75/5.00; n = 122; 91%). Attending physicians reported that for a majority of cases, telehealth visits influenced patient disposition and transfer decision-making (58.4%), and the influence of telehealth visits on patient disposition was statistically significantly higher for behavioral health cases (p < 0.018). Discussion: This study will be followed on to inform administrators/policy makers about 1) perceived level of competency of providers who implement tele-emergency care, 2) potential importance of telehealth equipment used and teamwork between rural providers and distant specialist, and 3) how use of telehealth may enhance ability of rural ED providers to improve quality of care. Perceived influence of telehealth on patient disposition is reported to be highest for telebehavioral patients. Healthcare educators need to place a priority on addressing provider competencies in telehealth through health professions degree programs and continuing education. Further research is needed to promote application and testing of evidence-based provider competencies in telehealth, and potentially relevant health communication models, to increase providers’ perceived efficacy and competency in telehealth care delivery, thus supporting high quality patient health outcomes.

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Fairchild, R. , Ferng Kuo, S. , Laws, S. , O’Brien, A. and Rahmouni, H. (2017) Perceptions of Rural Emergency Department Providers regarding Telehealth-Based Care: Perceived Competency, Satisfaction with Care and Tele-ED Patient Disposition. Open Journal of Nursing, 7, 721-733. doi: 10.4236/ojn.2017.77054.

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