GP perceptions of telehealth services in Australia: a qualitative study

BJGP Open. 2022 Mar 22;6(1):BJGPO.2021.0182. doi: 10.3399/BJGPO.2021.0182. Print 2022 Mar.


Background: Primary care providers have been rapidly transitioning from in-person to telehealth care during the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. There is an opportunity for new research in a rapidly evolving area, where evidence for telehealth services in primary care in the Australian setting remains limited.

Aim: To explore general practitioner (GP) perceptions on providing telehealth (telephone and video consultation) services in primary care in Australia.

Design & setting: A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews to gain an understanding of GP perceptions on telehealth use in Australia.

Method: GPs across Australia were purposively sampled. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, recorded, and transcribed verbatim for analysis. Transcripts were analysed using inductive thematic analysis to identify initial codes, which were then organised into themes.

Results: Fourteen GPs were interviewed. Two major themes that described GP perceptions of telehealth were: (1) existence of business and financial pressures in general practice; and (2) providing quality of care in Australia. These two themes interacted with four minor themes: (3) consumer-led care; (4) COVID-19 as a driver for telehealth reimbursement and adoption; (5) refining logistical processes; and (6) GP experiences shape telehealth use.

Conclusion: This study found that multiple considerations influenced GP choice of in-person, videoconference, or telephone consultation mode. For telehealth to be used routinely within primary care settings, evidence that supports the delivery of higher quality care to patients through telehealth and sustainable funding models will be required.

Keywords: family practice; general practice; primary health care; sustainability; telehealth; telemedicine.