Nurses often view teleheath as threatening, disruptive

Some healthcare professionals may view telehealth as threatening and as a result, organizations should work to minimize potential disruptions, according to a new study published in BMC Health Services Research.

Researchers Urvashi Sharma and Malcolm Clarke, who both work at the department of computer science, Brunel University, Uxbridge, Middlesex, U.K., interviewed community support workers and clinicians--including nurses who specialize in congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)--and conducted focus groups after the introduction of telehealth in Nottingham, U.K. to find out what they thought before and after the implementation.

They learned that the integration of telehealth services is especially disruptive to:

  • Clinical routines and workloads
  • Patient interactions, particularly the fundamentals of face-to-face nursing
  • Users who have limited experience and skill with the technology

Nurses in particular complained of unnecessary workload demands due to duplicate processes, such as the need to enter the same information in two data systems, according to the study.

However, one nurse noted a year after the implementation that even though telehealth increased her workload and daily practices, she recognized the positive outcomes as the result of the technology, such as a reduction in readmissions. "If somebody is unwell, you know, traditionally a patient may well sit there at home, feeling unwell. But they would not necessarily call us," she told the researchers. "They would leave it a few days until they get worse, and then call us. However, with the monitoring, we are able to, because their oxygen level is low on that day, we would call them."

To lessen the stress involved with the introduction of telehealth, the researchers suggest providers consider user experience--especially non-technical users, such as nurses and community support workers-when implementing the technology into their service lines.  Effective strategies include offering users timely, appropriate and context specific training; adequate technical support; and procedures that allow a balance between the use of telehealth and personal visit by nurses delivering care to their patients.

"If adequate steps are not taken and the concerns of users are not addressed in a timely manner, results can be detrimental to service integration," they write.

To learn more:
- read the study (.pdf)