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Videoconferencing and Telehealth Technologies Can Provide a Reliable Approach to Remote Assessment and Teaching Without Compromising Quality

Winters, Jill M. PhD, RN; Winters, Jack M. PhD

Articles

Cardiovascular disease remains a significant chronic healthcare problem in this country, with considerable associated economic and quality-of-life challenges. Along with these challenges, there is high demand for healthcare provider time, particularly in the areas of management of complex healthcare needs and patient education. At the same time, a critical nursing shortage exists. Telehealth technologies provide opportunities to meet the rapidly growing needs of consumers and healthcare practitioners. Many in need of services have limited access to high-end technologies. An argument has been made that the lowest level of technology needed to carryout a task should be used, if it is capable of providing the necessary services. Videoconferencing capabilities allow healthcare practitioners to engage in virtual face-to-face encounters with patients or other healthcare providers. A variety of levels of sophistication in these videoconferencing systems are available. In an effort to evaluate the effectiveness and consumer satisfaction with videoconferencing, 3 pilot studies were conducted to compare face-to-face, low-bandwidth, and high-bandwidth approaches to performing common assessments and patient education activities. In one study, a variety of experienced healthcare practitioners performed functional assessments of stroke subjects using a collection of validated scales by varying approaches (face-to-face, low-bandwidth, and high-bandwidth videoconferencing) in a randomized order. In a second study, undergraduate nursing students performed similar performance measures and taught an unfamiliar individual how to program and use an intravenous pump device, take a tympanic temperature, or to draw up insulin in a syringe. In the third study, advanced practice nursing students assessed vital signs and performed cardiopulmonary assessments on community-dwelling subjects using low-bandwidth and face-to-face approaches. Healthcare practitioners and students generally preferred high-bandwidth approaches over low-bandwidth alternatives when videoconferencing was performed; however, most participants and practitioners were satisfied with the encounters, regardless of the level of technology used.

Jill M. Winters, PhD, RN Director, Office of Nursing Research and Scholarship, and Associate Professor, College of Nursing, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wis.

Jack M. Winters, PhD Professor, College of Engineering, Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wis.

This work was funded in part by Health Resources and Service Administration (D09HP00571), the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers on Telerehabilitation (H133E980025) and Accessible Medical Instrumentation (H133E020729) (National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research, Department of Education), and the Falk Foundation.

Corresponding author Jill M. Winters, PhD, RN, Office of Nursing Research and Scholarship, College of Nursing, Marquette University, PO Box 1881, Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881 (e-mail: jill.winters@marquette.edu).

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.