The role of the Telehealth Coordinator in sustainable videoconferencing technology implementation and use in Canada: a qualitative study




Lynch, Joseph

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INTRODUCTION: In Canada, the role of Telehealth Coordinator is relatively new. Provider institutions and telehealth networks developed the role to support implementation and use of videoconferencing technology in health care delivery. As telehealth usage grows, an increasing number of Canadian nurses, other regulated health care professionals and unregulated workers are being called upon to function as Telehealth Coordinators. However, in some organizations, this role remains poorly understood and generally, little is known about the demographics of Canada’s Telehealth Coordinator community of practice. PURPOSE: Using Role Theory concepts and the tenets of Nursing Informatics, the broad aim of this qualitative study was to gain a better understanding of the demographics and role that nurses, other regulated health professionals and unregulated workers play in sustainable telehealth technology implementation and use in Canada. This is important in the context of leveraging technology to meet the challenges of an ageing population and increasing burden of chronic illness. METHODS: Qualitative exploratory study design using mixed methods. Telehealth Coordinators from the Canadian Society of Telehealth (CST) and Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) were invited to take part in an online survey (33 items) and telephone interview (20 items). RESULTS: From two identified populations – a provincial sample from Ontario and a national sample from other Canadian provinces and territories, 47 Telehealth Coordinators provided responses that could be analyzed. Over half of the respondents (56%) reported being between the ages of 40 – 59 years and 75% were female. Nurses and other regulated health care professionals comprised 53% of the sample. Of the respondents, 66% reported working in a health care provider organization. Responses to the qualitative questions are presented within the context of Role Theory and Nursing Informatics. CONCLUSIONS: Canada’s Telehealth Coordinators are an eclectic community of practice with varying roles, responsibilities, educational backgrounds and experience. Although the role of Telehealth Coordinator varied across organizations and regions in Canada, important commonalities were also found. Participants expressed a need and desire for standards, ongoing professional education opportunities and credentialing – especially if the role involved patient care. Major factors contributing to Canadian Telehealth Coordinators work satisfaction were: 1. patient contact and knowledge that they were making health care more accessible 2. educating others in the use of videoconferencing technology and 3. autonomy. Organizational issues including a lack of resources and understanding of the role by senior executives provided the least satisfaction for Telehealth Coordinators. Strong organizational support for Telehealth Coordinators will increase the probability of successful videoconferencing technology implementation and use.



telehealth, telemedicine, implementation research, nursing informatics, role theory, role stress, role conflict, role strain, role overload, role ambiguity, nursing, e-health