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Using Telehealth for Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations

A Process Evaluation of a National Pilot Project

Walsh, Wendy A. PhD1; Meunier-Sham, Joan RN, MS2; Re, Cheryl RN, BSN, SANE2

doi: 10.1097/JFN.0000000000000254
Original Articles

Introduction This project describes the first time live sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) services were provided via telehealth to support site clinicians conducting sexual assault forensic medical examinations for adult and adolescent patients. It involved six sites in three states, including rural, tribal, military, and community hospitals. The purpose of this process evaluation was to determine the extent to which patients consent to telehealth technology, examine how the technology worked, and explore the types of assistance.

Methods We reviewed information for sexual assault patients who presented at emergency departments (N = 215) and conducted telephone and online surveys with 178 clinicians who provided or received telehealth services.

Results Between May 1, 2015, and March 31, 2018, 129 patients and site clinicians received services via telehealth and an additional 86 site clinicians received consultation advice via telehealth. Most patients consented and accepted SANE services via telehealth (86% overall and 97% in non-U.S. Navy sites). No significant technology problems were experienced for most interactions (92%). The assistance provided remotely by SANEs to site clinicians included guiding clinicians through history taking and documentation, forensic examination and evidence collection techniques, identifying and documenting injuries, and guiding clinical practice. Site clinicians reported, on average, a positive impact of the assistance on their confidence in providing an effective examination, their ability to provide their patient with the best care, and their sense of feeling supported.

Implication Results of this pilot suggest that using live telehealth services for sexual assault forensic examinations is a promising practice.

Author Affiliations:1Crimes Against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire

2Massachusetts SANE Program, MA Department of Public Health.

This project was funded by the Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime Cooperative Agreement 2012-NE-BN-K001.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Correspondence: Wendy A. Walsh, PhD, Crimes Against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire, 10 West Edge Drive, Durham, NH 03824. E-mail:

Received February 28, 2019; accepted for publication July 1, 2019.

© 2019 by the International Association of Forensic Nurses. All rights reserved.
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