Literature on telehealth care delivery often addresses clinical, cost, technological, system, and organizational impacts. Less is known about interpersonal behaviors such as communication patterns and therapeutic relationship-building, which may have workforce development considerations. The purpose of this study was to conduct a systematic literature review to identify interpersonal health care provider (HCP) behaviors and attributes related to provider-patient interaction during care in telehealth delivery. Electronic searches were conducted using five indexes/databases: CINAHL, ERIC, PsychInfo, ProQuest Dissertations, PubMed; with hand-searching of the immediate past 10 years of five journals. Search concepts included: communication, telehealth, education, and health care delivery. Of 5261 unique article abstracts initially identified, 338 full-text articles remained after exclusion criteria were applied and these were reviewed for eligibility. Finally, data were extracted from 45 articles. Through qualitative synthesis of the 45 articles, we noted that papers encompassed many disciplines and targeted care to people in many settings including: home care, primary and specialist care, mental health/counseling, and multi-site teams. Interpersonal behaviors were observed though not manipulated through study designs. Six themes were identified: HCP-based support for telehealth delivery; provider-patient interactions during the telehealth event; environmental attributes; and guidelines for education interventions or evaluation of HCP behaviors. Although unable to identify current best practices, important considerations for practice and education did emerge. These include: perceptions of the utility of telehealth; differences in communication patterns such as pace and type of discourse, reliance on visual cues by both provider and patient especially in communicating empathy and building rapport; and confidentiality and privacy in telehealth care delivery.
Keywords: Communication; Education; Health care delivery; Qualitative systematic review; Telehealth.