Telehealth Attitudes, Training, and Preparedness Among First-Year Internal Medicine Residents in the COVID-19 Era

Telemed J E Health. 2021 Jun 3. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2021.0005. Online ahead of print.


Background: Telehealth, especially the use of real-time video and phone visits in ambulatory care, is increasingly important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The current state of internal medicine (IM) interns' telehealth training at the start of residency is unknown. Objective: To characterize the attitudes, training, and preparedness of IM interns regarding the use of telehealth video and phone visits in ambulatory care. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of IM interns at four IM residency programs in the United States in 2020. Results: One hundred fifty-six surveys were analyzed (response rate 82%). Seventy-five percent of interns rated training in the use of real-time video and phone visits for ambulatory care as important or very important. The vast majority received no training (74%) or clinical experience (90% no prior video visits, 81% no prior phone visits) during medical school. More interns believed that primary care may be effectively delivered via video visits compared with phone visits (77% vs. 35%). Most interns (69%) missed clinical time during medical school due to the COVID-19 pandemic; 41% felt that the pandemic negatively affected their ambulatory care preparation. Overall, the majority of interns (58%) felt prepared for primary care; only 12% felt prepared to deliver primary care using either video or phone visits. Conclusions: Although IM interns had favorable attitudes toward video and phone visits, few had training or clinical experience; most felt unprepared. Residency programs may need to close training gaps for current interns in conducting telehealth video and phone visits.

Keywords: COVID-19; graduate medical education; internal medicine residency; telehealth; telemedicine; videoconferencing.