The impact of video telehealth consultations on professional development and patient care

Samuel Goodwin, Michelle Mcguirk, Carole Reeve

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Telehealth is an effective mechanism for increasing access to health services for rural and remote communities.1 The potential clinical and financial benefits of telehealth service delivery are evident particularly in rural areas, the secondary benefits of telehealth delivery for health practitioners are not as clear.2 Most patients prefer to receive care nearer to where they live and telehealth is increasingly used to achieve this.3-5 Few studies have evaluated the continuing professional education attribute of telehealth and its potential impact as a positive driver for clinician uptake and increased job satisfaction. The aim of this study was to explore the impact of telehealth consultations on the knowledge, attitude and practice of remote doctors in Tennant Creek Hospital.

Tennant Creek Hospital is a 20 bed hospital 510 kms from the regional hospital in Alice Springs. Services are provided by resident medical officers with the support of visiting specialists. Over the past 2 years video telehealth consultations with specialists in Alice Springs have been introduced primarily to reduce the time and need for patients to travel to Alice Springs Hospital and also to support medical officers based in Tenant Creek Hospital.

Participants and methods: Between Jan 2014 and June 2015 18 medical officers were offered the opportunity to complete an anonymous survey of their experience using telehealth consultations. Participants were asked to rate their confidence in the diagnosis and management of the patient, clinical knowledge and changes in management before and after the video telehealth consultation with the specialist using a Likert scale (with five options ranging from not confident to extremely confident). Their attitudes towards telehealth consultations were also assessed.

Ethics approval was provided by the Central Australian Human Research Ethics Committee.

Results: Fourteen of 18 medical officers completed the surveys and a total of 350 telehealth consultations were provided during the study period, with the numbers steadily increasing over time from 73 in the first quarter to 116 in the last quarter. In general, telehealth consultations increased participant confidence in diagnosis, management and clinical knowledge and resulted in changes in patient management (Table 1). Having a local doctor involved in the consultation added value by supporting the implementation of the management plan and providing continuity of care. The most common logistical difficulty was the patient not attending the appointment; however, non‐attendance rates for telehealth were still lower than comparable outpatient clinics (26–29%).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-186
Number of pages2
JournalAustralian Journal of Rural Health
Issue number3
Early online date14 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


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