The relationship between telehealth and information technology ranges from that of uneasy bedfellows to creative partnerships.

Abstract

The relationship between the clinical and technical aspects of a telehealth operation is frequently problematic, and technically-driven projects often fail to achieve sustainability. Qualitative data from a study of 37 Australian telehealth services were analysed to understand how the relationship between telehealth providers and information technology (IT) departments helps or hinders the development of telehealth. The most frequent difficulties reported were between telehealth services and the internal IT departments of health services, rather than with external vendors. The difficulties included barriers to installing telehealth over IT networks, a lack of priority given to telehealth services, and IT departments insisting on standardised approach. Alternatively, when IT staff were assigned to supporting clinical staff and had a close working relationship with them, they were major enablers of telehealth services. Authorising dedicated IT support and encouraging joint problem solving should provide a strong foundation for a healthy relationship which contributes to the growth and sustainability of telehealth.

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