Perceived Usefulness of Telehealth Among Rural Medical Providers: Barriers to Use and Associations with Provider Confidence

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J Technol Behav Sci. 2021 Jun 5:1-5. doi: 10.1007/s41347-021-00215-5. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: Telehealth has been identified as an efficient and safe way of increasing access to healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic. Understanding providers’ perceptions of telehealth usage in rural communities may help other communities understand barriers and concerns related to implementation, during and post-pandemic. This study aimed to (a) examine rates of telemedicine use among rural providers, (b) determine whether changes in telehealth use in this group were associated with provider confidence and perceived usefulness of technology, (c) compare these providers’ perceptions of the “usefulness” of technology prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and (d) examine barriers to implementation and use of telehealth within a rural sample.

METHOD: Six-hundred eighty-six medical providers working at a rural Pennsylvania teaching hospital and associated satellite clinics were surveyed anonymously. Surveys included the Perceived Usefulness of Technology Scale and questions to identify barriers that prohibited the use of telehealth.

FINDINGS/RESULTS: Of 136 respondents, 86% reported no prior experience using virtual technology for patient encounters. Use of telehealth care increased by 34% following the pandemic. Provider confidence in his/her/their abilities was positively associated with increased use of telehealth and perceived usefulness of technology. Provider-identified barriers to implementation included necessity of physical exams and lack of technological literacy.

CONCLUSIONS: Both medical providers and patients continue to face various barriers to seamless integration of care. Devising ways to increase self-confidence and efficacy for use of telehealth among providers might be an additional way to increase telehealth use.

PMID:34109271 | PMC:PMC8178023 | DOI:10.1007/s41347-021-00215-5