The use of research in telehealth implementations |
Recent advances in, and increasing availability and utilisation of technology are presenting opportunities to provide greater access to services for those who live in regional and remote locations. This is particularly the case in health, where specialist services are usually limited to metropolitan areas. Those who live in regional or remote locations are therefore often required to travel long distances to gain access to these services (Wootton, 1998 and WHO 2010).
Telehealth has many perceived benefits including the potential for enhancing access, quality, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness (Craig and Patterson, 2005). ...view middle of the document...
Fortunately there is a growing body of evidence regarding health IT implementation to draw from and use to create a successful outcome for new telehealth projects (Box et al, 2010 and WHO, 2010). While the majority of this research is focused in single hospitals or clinics, or projects in a subset of a larger health system, some common themes have emerged which should be taken into consideration when implementing any telehealth project.
Of note, organisational and cultural factors often offset perceived technology-based barriers.
Joseph et al. (2011) have identified seven key challenges facing telehealth implementations; if an organisation can address these early in the lifecycle of the project it will have a better chance of long term success:
Adoption of a bottom-up approach in which local stakeholders; healthcare providers in particular, are consulted early in the process to identify areas of clinical need that may be addressed by the new telehealth solution. By involving the healthcare providers and users of the technology in the early consultation and design this creates a sense of ownership of the solution and ultimately the users of the technology have contributed to design a solution that meets the needs they identified (Box et al, 2010). Recruitment of clinical champions once the solution is up and running is considered vital to reduce scepticism about the new technology. This has been shown to increase user acceptance and adoption.
2. Project management
A lack of a dedicated project manager and underestimating the amount of time staff need to dedicate to a telehealth project has been a reoccurring issue in failed projects. For successful outcomes a dedicated team is necessary (Joseph et al. 2011).
3. Patients and provision of support
It is essential to recruit patients with a willingness to use the telehealth solutions and provide adequate ongoing support and training. Patients need to find the solutions easy to use and see that this creates benefits for them (Joseph et al. 2011).
A thorough evaluation of interoperability of the technology to be used needs to occur. The telehealth units need to be compatible with the networks at both the base area the remote area and potentially in patient’s homes. If home monitoring devices are to be used the users need training on how to set them up correctly. Long term maintenance and support of the technology needs to be evaluated as to the time and cost involved (Joseph et al. 2011).
It is essential to have a good partnership between the different service locations and departments that will be involved. It is essential that they have mutual goals and beliefs in what the services will achieve and work together to have standard processes for delivering the services. If this partnership does not happen the project is bound to fail (Joseph et al. 2011).
Recurrent funding is needed to keep telehealth...