Despite widespread use of telehealth during the pandemic, little is known about the effectiveness of virtual care for diagnosis, how to measure its safety and what actions would improve the experience for clinicians and patients. A new report presents the findings of a project designed to better understand the implications of using telehealth for diagnosis, or “telediagnosis,” and to identify research topics for further study.
Conducted by the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine (SIDM), the project centered on structured conversations with 50 individuals — 10 each from five stakeholder groups: patients, clinicians, clinical practices, hospitals/health systems, and companies that supply telehealth technology and services. The report describes their reflections on implementation, effectiveness, and user experience, including financial implications for patients and well as clinicians and provider organizations. The conversations took place between December 2020 and May 2021.
In addition to trends and future prospects, the report includes practical advice and tips shared by clinicians and patients. For example, one clinician reported simulating team care by taking a patient, who was logged in on an iPad, down the hall to a colleague for a consultation. Some patients described developing their own approach to triage, as they learned to evaluate when telediagnosis would be appropriate or not.
The conversations raised as many questions as they answered, which comprise the beginnings of a research agenda for telediagnosis. SIDM identifies questions about the best mix of in-person and virtual care, which patients are being “left behind” when care shifts to virtual platforms, and how to measure success or failure in diagnosis among the top research needs.
For more information, a SIDM webinar about this project is available on YouTube.
Improving Telediagnosis: A Call to Action was funded through a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute Engagement Award.