Objective: To determine patient perceptions of joint teleconsultations (JTC), with particular reference to reasons underlying, and factors contributing to, patient satisfaction and dissatisfaction with this mode of health delivery.
Background: Telemedicine has been welcomed as one way of improving health-care delivery, by improving patient access to secondary care and specialist services hence widening patient choice, particularly for patients outside major conurbations. However, a recent systematic review found currently available data on patient satisfaction with telemedicine to be methodologically flawed. Qualitative evaluations offer the opportunity to elucidate the details of patient satisfaction with this mode of health-care delivery.
Design: Qualitative study using semi-structured interviews.
Setting and participants: Purposive sample of 28 participants of a major randomized controlled trial (Virtual Outreach study) of JTC conducted in one urban and one rural area in Britain.
Intervention: Joint teleconferenced consultations with the patient, patient's general practitioner (GP), and a hospital specialist. The patient and GP were sited in the local practice, while the hospital specialist was in the hospital outpatient department, and the two parties were connected by an ISDN2 link and video-conferencing software.
Main outcome measures: Patient experiences of JTC, with particular reference to reasons underlying, and factors contributing to, overall satisfaction or dissatisfaction.
Results: Two major themes were identified: customer care and doctor-patient interaction. Patients appreciated the customer care aspects of JTC, particularly the enhanced convenience, reduced costs and improved punctuality associated with JTC. However, there were divergent views about the doctor-patient interactions with some patients expressing a sense of alienation arising from the use of technology, and problems with doctor-patient communication.
Conclusions: These data add significantly to the existing literature on patient satisfaction with telemedicine, by elucidating the factors underlying overall satisfaction scores and hence have implications for future service delivery and implementation of telemedicine.