Background: Continuity of care is widely regarded as an important marker of quality in the management of patients with long-term conditions. New services that integrate telemonitoring into care pathways have potential to change aspects of continuity in both positive and negative ways.
Aims: A telemonitoring service for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) was introduced in Lothian, Scotland, in 2009. A qualitative study, nested within the TELESCOT COPD randomised control trial, was undertaken to explore the views of patients and professionals on telemonitoring. The perceived impact of telemonitoring on continuity of care was investigated as part of the research.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 38 patients (47% male, mean age 67.5 years). A maximum variation sample in relation to age, sex, socio-economic background, disease severity, and compliance with telemonitoring was recruited. Thirty-two stakeholders (healthcare professionals and managers) were interviewed. Transcribed coded data were analysed thematically using the framework approach. Interpretation was supported by multidisciplinary discussion.
Results: Patients and healthcare professionals considered that relationship-based continuity of care was important in the delivery of telemonitoring services. Managers placed emphasis on improved continuity of clinical management as a means of reducing healthcare costs. However, professionals described many operational challenges arising from the 'bolting-on' of telemonitoring provision to existing usual care provision which, they considered, resulted in the proliferation of additional managerial discontinuities.
Conclusions: Managers and healthcare professionals face major challenges in meeting demands for both relationship continuity and continuity of clinical management in the development of telemonitoring services.