Background: Telementoring is a technique that has shown potential as a surgical training aid. Previous studies have suggested that telementoring is a safe training modality. This review aimed to review both the technological capabilities of reported telementoring systems as well as its potential benefits as a mentoring modality.
Methods: A systematic review of the literature, up to July 2017, was carried out in accordance with PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines. Study quality was assessed using the Oxford Levels of Evidence proforma. Data were extracted regarding technical capabilities, bandwidth, latency, and costs. Additionally, the primary aim and key results were extracted from each study and analyzed.
Results: A total of 66 studies were identified for inclusion. In all, 48% of studies were conducted in general surgery; 22 (33%), 24 (36%), and 20 (30%) of studies reported telementoring that occurred within the same hospital, outside the hospital, and outside the country, respectively. Sixty-four (98%) of studies employed video and audio and 38 (58%) used telestration. Twelve separate studies directly compared telementoring against on-site mentoring. Seven (58%) showed no difference in outcomes between telementoring and on-site mentoring. No study found telementoring to result in poorer postoperative outcomes.
Conclusions: The results of this review suggest that telementoring has a similar safety and efficacy profile as on-site mentoring. Future analysis to determine the potential benefits and pitfalls to surgical education through telementoring are required to determine the exact role it shall play in the future. Technological advances to improve remote connectivity would also aid the uptake of telementoring on a larger scale.
Keywords: education; technology; telemedicine; telementoring; training.