What are healthcare stakeholders’ perceptions and experiences of factors affecting the implementation of critical care telemedicine?

What is the aim of this review?

The aim of this review was to identify factors that affect the acceptance and use of health care from a distance (known as telemedicine) for patients in intensive care units (also known as critical care). To answer this question, we searched for and analysed qualitative studies about the perceptions and experiences of clinical staff, managers and administrators, as well as patients and family members. This review links to another Cochrane Review assessing the effects of telemedicine. 

Key messages

Our review identified several factors that could influence the acceptance and use of telemedicine in critical care. These included the value that hospital staff and family members place on having access to critical care experts, staff access to sufficient training, and the extent to which healthcare providers at the bedside and the critical care experts supporting them from a distance acknowledge and respect each other’s expertise.

What was studied in this synthesis?

In critical care telemedicine (CCT), patients in intensive care units (ICUs) are monitored by critical care experts based at a ‘hub’ outside the hospital. By monitoring patients, hub staff are able to warn staff at the bedside of potential problems and offer them decision support. The use of CCT means that patients and staff in rural or small hospitals have access to critical care experts. But there may still be challenges when implementing CCT. In this review, we assessed studies that looked at the perceptions and experiences of healthcare workers, family members and others to find factors that could influence the acceptance and use of CCT.

What are the main findings of the synthesis?

We included 13 relevant studies. Twelve were from the USA and one was from Canada. Where we judged the North American focus of the studies to be a concern for a finding’s relevance, we have reflected this in our assessment of confidence in the finding. The studies explored the views and experiences of bedside and hub critical care personnel; administrative, technical, information technology, and managerial staff, and family members. The ICUs were from hospitals in both urban and rural areas.

We identified several factors that could influence the acceptance and use of CCT. We had high confidence in the following findings:

Hospital staff and family members described several advantages of CCT. Bedside and hub staff strongly believed that the main advantage of CCT was having access to experts when bedside doctors were not available. Families also valued having access to critical care experts. Hospital staff also described how CCT could support clinical decision-making and mentoring of junior staff. 

Hospital staff greatly valued the nature and quality of social networks between the bedside and CCT hub teams. Key issues for them were trust, acceptance, being part of a team, familiarity and effective communication between the two teams.

Interactions between some bedside and CCT hub staff were featured with tension, frustration and conflict. Staff on both sides commonly described disrespect of expertise, resistance and animosity.

Hospital staff thought it was important to promote and offer training in the use of CCT before its implementation. This included rehearsing every step in the process, offering staff opportunities to ask questions and disseminating learning resources. Some also complained that experienced staff were taken away from bedside care and re-allocated to the CCT hub team.

Hospital staff's attitudes towards, knowledge about and value placed on CCT influenced acceptance of CCT. Staff were positive towards CCT because of its several advantages. But some were concerned that the hub staff were not able to understand the patient’s situation through the camera. Some were also concerned about confidentiality of patient data.

We also identified other factors that could influence the acceptance and use of CCT, although our confidence in these findings is moderate or low. These factors include the extent to which telemedicine software was adaptable to local needs, and hub staff were aware of local norms; concerns about additional administrative work and cost; patients' and families’ desire to stay close to their local community; the type of hospital setting; the extent to which there was support from senior leadership; staff access to information about policies and procedures; individuals' readiness to change; staff motivation, competence and values; clear strategies for staff engagement; feedback about progress; and the impact of CCT on staffing levels.

How up-to-date is this review?

We searched for studies that had been published up to October 2019.

Authors' conclusions: 

Our review identified several factors that could influence the acceptance and use of telemedicine in critical care. These include the value that hospital staff and family members place on having access to critical care experts, staff access to sufficient training, and the extent to which healthcare providers at the bedside and the critical care experts supporting them from a distance acknowledge and respect each other’s expertise. Further research, especially in contexts other than North America, with different cultures, norms and practices will strengthen the evidence base for the implementation of CCT internationally and our confidence in these findings. Implementation of CCT appears to be growing in importance in the context of global pandemic management, especially in countries with wide geographical dispersion and limited access to critical care expertise. For successful implementation, policymakers and other stakeholders should consider pre-empting and addressing factors that may affect implementation, including strengthening teamness between bedside and hub teams; engaging and supporting frontline staff; training ICU clinicians on the use of CCT prior to its implementation; and ensuring staff have access to information and knowledge about when, why and how to use CCT for maximum benefit.

Read the full abstract...
Background: 

Critical care telemedicine (CCT) has long been advocated for enabling access to scarce critical care expertise in geographically-distant areas. Additional advantages of CCT include the potential for reduced variability in treatment and care through clinical decision support enabled by the analysis of large data sets and the use of predictive tools. Evidence points to health systems investing in telemedicine appearing better prepared to respond to sudden increases in demand, such as during pandemics. However, challenges with how new technologies such as CCT are implemented still remain, and must be carefully considered.

Objectives: 

This synthesis links to and complements another Cochrane Review assessing the effects of interactive telemedicine in healthcare, by examining the implementation of telemedicine specifically in critical care. Our aim was to identify, appraise and synthesise qualitative research evidence on healthcare stakeholders’ perceptions and experiences of factors affecting the implementation of CCT, and to identify factors that are more likely to ensure successful implementation of CCT for subsequent consideration and assessment in telemedicine effectiveness reviews.

Search strategy: 

We searched MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL, and Web of Science for eligible studies from inception to 14 October 2019; alongside 'grey' and other literature searches. There were no language, date or geographic restrictions.

Selection criteria: 

We included studies that used qualitative methods for data collection and analysis. Studies included views from healthcare stakeholders including bedside and CCT hub critical care personnel, as well as administrative, technical, information technology, and managerial staff, and family members.

Data collection and analysis: 

We extracted data using a predetermined extraction sheet. We used the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) qualitative checklist to assess the methodological rigour of individual studies. We followed the Best-fit framework approach using the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) to inform our data synthesis.  We classified additional themes not captured by CFIR under a separate theme. We used the GRADE CERQual approach to assess confidence in the findings.

Main results: 

We found 13 relevant studies. Twelve were from the USA and one was from Canada. Where we judged the North American focus of the studies to be a concern for a finding’s relevance, we have reflected this in our assessment of confidence in the finding. The studies explored the views and experiences of bedside and hub critical care personnel; administrative, technical, information technology, and managerial staff; and family members. The intensive care units (ICUs) were from tertiary hospitals in urban and rural areas.

We identified several factors that could influence the implementation of CCT. We had high confidence in the following findings:

Hospital staff and family members described several advantages of CCT. Bedside and hub staff strongly believed that the main advantage of CCT was having access to experts when bedside physicians were not available. Families also valued having access to critical care experts. In addition, hospital staff described how CCT could support clinical decision-making and mentoring of junior staff. 

Hospital staff greatly valued the nature and quality of social networks between the bedside and CCT hub teams. Key issues for them were trust, acceptance, teamness, familiarity and effective communication between the two teams.

Interactions between some bedside and CCT hub staff were featured with tension, frustration and conflict. Staff on both sides commonly described disrespect of their expertise, resistance and animosity.

Hospital staff thought it was important to promote and offer training in the use of CCT before its implementation. This included rehearsing every step in the process, offering staff opportunities to ask questions and disseminating learning resources. Some also complained that experienced staff were taken away from bedside care and re-allocated to the CCT hub team.

Hospital staff's attitudes towards, knowledge about and value placed on CCT influenced acceptance of CCT. Staff were positive towards CCT because of its several advantages. But some were concerned that the CCT hub staff were not able to understand the patient’s situation through the camera. Some were also concerned about confidentiality of patient data.

We also identified other factors that could influence the implementation of CCT, although our confidence in these findings is moderate or low. These factors included the extent to which telemedicine software was adaptable to local needs, and hub staff were aware of local norms; concerns about additional administrative work and cost; patients' and families’ desire to stay close to their local community; the type of hospital setting; the extent to which there was support from senior leadership; staff access to information about policies and procedures; individuals' stage of change; staff motivation, competence and values; clear strategies for staff engagement; feedback about progress; and the impact of CCT on staffing levels.

Share/Save