Human factors in primary care telemedicine encounters

J Telemed Telecare. 2008;14(4):169-72. doi: 10.1258/jtt.2007.007041.


Traditional delivery of primary care takes place in a face-to-face transaction between provider and patient. In telemedicine, however, the transaction is 'filtered' by the distance and technology. The potential problem of filtered communication in a telemedicine encounter was examined from a human factors perspective. Patients with and without experience of telemedicine, and providers who had experience of telemedicine, were asked about patient-provider relationships in interviews and focus groups. Seven themes emerged: initial impressions, style of questions, field of view, physical interaction, social talk, control of encounter and ancillary services. This suggests that communication can be improved and better patient-provider relationships can be developed in a primary care telemedicine encounter if attention is paid to four areas of the interaction: verbal, non-verbal, relational and actions/transactional. The human factors dimension of telemedicine is an important element in delivery of health care at a distance - and is one of few factors over which the provider has direct control.

MeSH terms

  • Communication*
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards*
  • Humans
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Patient-Centered Care / standards
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Primary Health Care* / ethics
  • Telemedicine / standards*
  • Treatment Outcome