Telehealth’s future in Australian Primary Health Care: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

BJGP Open. 2023 Feb 7:BJGPO.2022.0117. doi: 10.3399/BJGPO.2022.0117. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth emerged as a means of safely providingprimary health care (PHC) consultations. In Australia, changes to telehealth funding led tothe reconsideration of the role of telehealth in the ongoing provision of PHC services.

AIM: To investigate general practitioners (GPs), Registered Nurses (RNs), Nurse Practitioners(NPs) and Allied Health (AH) perceptions of the sustainability of telehealth in primaryhealth care post-pandemic.

DESIGN AND SETTING: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 33 purposively selected GPs (n=13),RNs (n=5), NPs (n=9) and AH (n=6) working in PHC settings across Australia. Participantswere drawn from respondents to a national survey of primary health care providers(n=217).

METHOD: The thematic analysis approach reported by Braun and Clarke (1) was used to analyse theinterview data.

RESULTS: Data analysis revealed that the perception of providers was represented by two themes:lessons learned and the sustainability of telehealth. Lessons learned included the need forrapid adaptation to telehealth, use of technology and the pandemic being a catalyst forlong-term change. The sustainability of telehealth in primary health care comprised foursub-themes around challenges including funding, patient and provider safety issues,hybrid service models and access to support.

CONCLUSION: Providers required resilience and flexibility to adapt to telehealth. Funding models mustreward providers from an outcome focus, rather than placing limits on telehealth’s use.Hybrid approaches to service delivery will best meet the needs of the community but mustbe accompanied by support and education for PHC professionals.

PMID:36750374 | DOI:10.3399/BJGPO.2022.0117


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