Clinician Perspectives on Telemedicine: Observational Cross-sectional Study

JMIR Hum Factors. 2021 Jul 9;8(3):e29690. doi: 10.2196/29690.


Background: Since the COVID-19 pandemic onset, telemedicine has increased exponentially across numerous outpatient departments and specialties. Qualitative studies examining clinician telemedicine perspectives during the pandemic identified challenges with physical examination, workflow concerns, burnout, and reduced personal connection with patients. However, these studies only included a relatively small number of physicians or were limited to a single specialty, and few assessed perspectives on integrating trainees into workflows, an important area to address to support the clinical learning environment. As telemedicine use continues, it is necessary to understand a range of clinician perspectives.

Objective: This study aims to survey pediatric and adult medicine clinicians at the University of Chicago Medical Center to understand their telemedicine benefits and barriers, workflow impacts, and training and support needs.

Methods: In July 2020, we conducted an observational cross-sectional study of University of Chicago Medical Center faculty and advanced practice providers in the Department of Medicine (DOM) and Department of Pediatrics (DOP).

Results: The overall response rate was 39% (200/517; DOM: 135/325, 42%; DOP: 65/192, 34%); most respondents were physicians (DOM: 100/135, 74%; DOP: 51/65, 79%). One-third took longer to prepare for (65/200, 33%) and conduct (62/200, 32%) video visits compared to in-person visits. Male clinicians reported conducting a higher percentage of telemedicine visits by video than their female counterparts (P=.02), with no differences in the number of half-days per week providing direct outpatient care or supervising trainees. Further, clinicians who conducted a higher percentage of their telemedicine by video were less likely to feel overwhelmed (P=.02), with no difference in reported burnout. Female clinicians were "more overwhelmed" with video visits compared to males (41/130, 32% vs 12/64, 19%; P=.05). Clinicians 50 years or older were "less overwhelmed" than those younger than 50 years (30/85, 35% vs 23/113, 20%; P=.02). Those who received more video visit training modalities (eg, a document and webinar on technical issues) were less likely to feel overwhelmed by the conversion to video visits (P=.007) or burnt out (P=.009). In addition, those reporting a higher ability to technically navigate a video visit were also less likely to feel overwhelmed by video visits (P=.02) or burnt out (P=.001). The top telemedicine barriers were patient-related: lack of technology access, lack of skill, and reluctance. Training needs to be focused on integrating learners into workflows. Open-ended responses highlighted a need for increased support staff. Overall, more than half "enjoyed conducting video visits" (119/200, 60%) and wanted to continue using video visits in the future (150/200, 75%).

Conclusions: Despite positive telemedicine experiences, more support to facilitate video visits for patients and clinicians is needed. Further, clinicians need additional training on trainee education and integration into workflows. Further work is needed to better understand why gender and age differences exist. In conclusion, interventions to address clinician and patient barriers, and enhance clinician training are needed to support telemedicine's durability.

Keywords: burnout; clinician perspective; human factors; outpatient; patient-centered care; telemedicine; trainee; training; virtual health; workflow.