Telehealth is gaining momentum in primary care, as nurses and other healthcare professionals seek to reduce medical costs and optimize the quality of care provided to patients. I work in a busy, fast-paced primary care clinic. Present-day and future technologies streamline the most fundamental nursing processes and operations, but they also necessitate the provision of quality training and education to nurses.
Our primary care clinic enjoys a privileged position among other nursing facilities by the levels of technology adoption and the amount of investments it makes in fostering organizational change. Nurses use telehealth applications to deliver quality primary care to patients, who cannot reach the facility and be physically present for objective or subjective reasons. We have a telehealth application that was developed specifically for our hospital, while taking into account the peculiar characteristics of the populations we serve. In the past years, we have seen the growing number of patients who prefer telehealth to regular visits, thus giving nurses more space and time to serve the needs of patients, who require immediate and urgent help.
It should be noted that telehealth applications have broad effects on the quality and consistency of nursing care. Primarily, they greatly enhance the frequency and effectiveness of nurse-patient and nurse-physician interactions (Vinson, McCallum, Thronlow, & Champagne, 2011). Patients have an easier access to nursing care and are more willing to seek health advice from nurses. They enjoy better coordination of multidisciplinary care, which is particularly beneficial in chronically ill patients (Vinson et al., 2011). Nurse-physician contacts also increase and improve. The cost of nursing care gradually decreases. Nurses and patients enjoy the convenience of our telehealth solution, even though it raises a number of questions.
One of them relates to ethics, autonomy, and privacy. In the absence of effective safeguards, telehealth may violate patients’ right to privacy. Likewise, nurses who increasingly rely on telehealth and telenursing and cannot physically attend their patients may be limited in their ability to conduct physical examinations and make differential diagnoses (Daniel & Sulmasy, 2015). Ultimately, the positive effects of telehealth on nursing care in our facility can be offset by the costs of implementing and maintaining this kind of technology. Not every nursing facility can afford running telemedicine staff or finance regular education and training for the nurses, who want to use these applications on a daily basis. Daniel and Sulmasy (2015) are right when they say that the advantages of telehealth should be considered against the risks it poses to nurses, patients, and other stakeholders.
Despite the potential benefits of telemedicine, numerous barriers to implementing it in our primary health clinic continue to persist. Nurse resistance is the primary obstacle that hinders the implementation of this technology in our organization. Many nurses are afraid of new technologies. Many others do not want to expose themselves to innovations, because they think that they will change the existing status quo and undermine their job security. Thus, quality training and education should become the starting points in implementing promising technological solutions in nursing practice. Nurses should receive quality support from their managers and supervisors to build confidence and improve their perceptions of telehealth. Coupled with training and education, top management support will enable nurses to sustain the positive effects of telehealth on nursing care. It will also empower nurses to refine their technology skills in ways that benefit patient, physicians, and other stakeholders.
To conclude, telemedicine opens new opportunities for delivering outstanding patient care. It improves collaboration between nurses and patients, facilitates information delivery, promotes effective nurse-patient and nurse-physician communication, and reduces the costs of healthcare. Still, barriers to implementing advanced nursing technologies continue to persist. Management support and training for nurses could reduce their resistance to technology change in the workplace.
- Daniel, H., & Sulmasy, L.S. (2015). Policy recommendations to guide the use of telemedicine in primary care settings: An American College of Physicians position paper. Annals of Internal Medicine, 163(10), 787-789.
- Vinson, M.H., McCallum, R., Thornlow, D.K., & Champagne, M.T. (2011). Design, implementation, and evaluation of population-specific telehealth nursing services. Nursing Economics, 29(5), 265-272.