Introduction: The Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans Health Administration (VA) Strategic Plan (Fiscal Year 2018-2024) identified four priorities for care including easy access, timely and integrated care, accountability, and modernization, all of which can be directly or indirectly impacted by telemedicine technologies. These strategic goals, coupled with an anticipated rheumatology workforce shortage, has created a need for additional care delivery methods such as clinical video telehealth application to rheumatology (ie, telerheumatology). Rheumatology clinician perceptions of clinical usefulness telerheumatology have received limited attention in the past. The present study aimed to evaluate rheumatologists' perceptions of and experiences with telemedicine, generally, and telerheumatology, specifically, within the VA. Materials and Methods: A 38-item survey based on an existing telehealth providers' satisfaction survey was developed by two VA rheumatologists with experience in telemedicine as well as a social scientist experienced in survey development and user experience through an iterative process. Questions probed VA rheumatology clinician satisfaction with training and information technology (IT) supports, as well as barriers to using telemedicine. Additionally, clinician perceptions of the impact and usefulness of and appropriate clinical contexts for telerheumatology were evaluated. The survey was disseminated online via VA REDCap to members of the VA Rheumatology Consortium (VARC) through a LISTSERV. The study protocol was approved by the host institution IRB through expedited review. Survey responses were analyzed using descriptive statistics. Results: Forty-five anonymous responses (20% response rate) were collected. Of those who responded, 47% were female, 98% were between 35 and 64 years old, 71% reported working at an academic center, and the majority was physician-level practitioners (98%). Respondents generally considered themselves to be tech savvy (58%). Thirty-six percent of the sample reported past experience with telemedicine, and, of those, 29% reported experience with telerheumatology specifically. Clinicians identified the greatest barrier to effective telerheumatology as the inability to perform a physical exam (71%) but agreed that telerheumatology is vital to increasing access to care (59%) and quality of care (40%) in the VA. Overall, regardless of experience with telemedicine, respondents reported that telerheumatology was more helpful for management of rheumatologic conditions rather than initial diagnosis. Conclusions: While the majority of rheumatology clinicians did not report past experience with telerheumatology, they agreed that it has potential to further the VA mission of improved access and quality of care. Rheumatology clinicians felt the suitability of telerheumatology is dependent on the phase of care. As remote care technologies continue to be rapidly adopted into clinic, clinician perceptions of and experiences with telemedicine will need to be addressed in order to maintain high-quality and clinician-and patient-centric care within VA rheumatology.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health