Use of telemedicine for rheumatology practice in Queensland, Australia: experiences before and during the COVID‐19 pandemic

Jhaveri, Divita, Emeto, Theophilus I., Alele, Faith O., Strom, Aleisha, and Benham, Helen (2022) Use of telemedicine for rheumatology practice in Queensland, Australia: experiences before and during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Internal Medicine Journal, 52 (10). pp. 1685-1690.

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Background: In Australia there is a shortage of rheumatologists potentially translating to poorer outcomes. A possible solution in this setting is telemedicine (TM). Aim: The aim of this study was to examine the utilisation and provider perceptions of TM in rheumatology in Queensland and explore the challenges faced when using TM before and during COVID-19.

Methods: A sequential mixed-methods study design was used. Rheumatologists completed a questionnaire on demographics, clinical practice, TM uptake, models of care and clinician perceptions of TM. The qualitative phase utilised purposeful sampling of active users of TM through in-depth semi-structured interviews.

Results: Thirty rheumatologists participated with 76.7% identifying as active TM users. Use of TM was limited prior to COVID-19 with 80.9% seeing less than 5 patients per week. Patient populations served by TM included capital city (53.3%), regional (63.3%) and rural/remote (23.3%). Most rheumatologists prescribed conventional or biologic disease modifying agents (90% and 55%) through TM consultations. Barriers to TM use included low confidence in joint assessments, limited distribution of technology, access to administrative and peripheral clinical staff and lack of financial incentives. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant expansion of TM via telephone calls occurred and rheumatologists reported low confidence and satisfaction with this model.

Conclusions: Familiarity with TM exists in this rheumatologist cohort, however its use in routine practise is limited due to multiple barriers. The COVID 19 pandemic highlighted low confidence in telephone calls as a form of TM underlining the need for appropriate TM models of care for rheumatology practice.

Item ID: 71567
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1445-5994
Keywords: telemedicine, telerheumatology, telehealth
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2022 04:41
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4203 Health services and systems > 420302 Digital health @ 30%
32 BIOMEDICAL AND CLINICAL SCIENCES > 3202 Clinical sciences > 320223 Rheumatology and arthritis @ 40%
42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4202 Epidemiology > 420204 Epidemiological methods @ 30%
SEO Codes: 20 HEALTH > 2001 Clinical health > 200105 Treatment of human diseases and conditions @ 30%
20 HEALTH > 2003 Provision of health and support services > 200308 Outpatient care @ 40%
20 HEALTH > 2004 Public health (excl. specific population health) > 200412 Preventive medicine @ 30%
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