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Abstract

Background. As telehealth becomes a larger part of the health care landscape, clinicians are becoming prepared to operate technology-based­ systems for conducting routine care and exchanging information. Less defined are interpersonal skills for telehealth care delivery such as communication and therapeutic relationships that can influence clinical outcomes. Examples include clinician adaptability to the communication process via telehealth, clinician congeniality in communications, and striving to achieve telepresence. The purpose of this study was to describe interpersonal skills for telehealth delivery to assist in the preparation of health professionals.

Methods. Aqualitative methods approached was used to build on results from our previously published systematic review. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with experienced practitioners or educators (n=6) at multiple regional telehealth centers. Video/audio-recorded sessions were transcribed verbatim and researchers conducted thematic analysis of data until achieving saturation of data.

Results. Participants provided their perspectives about interpersonal skills important for quality telehealth delivery based on professional experiences. Analysis of responses across interviews showed strong alignment with the six themes identified previously as non-technical clinician attributes: Preinteractional, Verbal Communication, Non-Verbal Communication, Relational, and Environmental. Also, an additional theme of Management/Operations emerged. Suggested training topics crossed clinical disciplines and ranged from telemedicine etiquette and verbal skills to equipment operation and billing and coding. Each study participant commented on benefits from preparation of telehealth clinicians related to the clinician-patient interaction such as: patient engagement, patient-centered care, patient satisfaction, patient implementation of care plans, effective communication with patients, and quality assessment of telehealth sessions.

Conclusions. This study identified interpersonal skills that may be applied in professional education for telehealth delivery from the perspective of experienced practitioners. Further research could explore outcomes from professional preparation for interpersonal skills and patient perspectives.

Author Bio(s)

Beverly W. Henry, PhD, RDN, is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Nutrition and Dietetics in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA. She is also a licensed dietitian in the state of Illinois.

Leah J. Ames, MS, MLS, is a doctoral student in the College of Health Sciences at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA. She is an experienced Medical Laboratory Scientist with a demonstrated history of working in a clinical laboratory and higher education.

Derryl E. Block, PhD, RN, is dean and professor in the College of Health Sciences at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois, USA. Her research interests include health workforce development, public health nursing, and community development.

John A. Vozenilek, MD, FACP is the VP and Chief Medical Officer of Jump Simulation. He provides central coordination and oversight for OSF Healthcare’s undergraduate, graduate, interdisciplinary, and continuing medical education programs.

Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge with appreciation the participation by telehealth professionals interviewed for this study.

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