Frequent users’ experiences of the possibilities provided by telemedicine services in advancing health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic: A qualitative interview study
Keywords:COVID-19, telemedicine, health care services, frequent healthcare users, content analysis
The COVID-19 pandemic reached Finland in 2020 which further expedited the digitalization of healthcare services. The expansion of digitalization in healthcare has increased the risk of inequality for some patient groups.
The aim of this interview study was to describe the experiences of the frequent users of healthcare services about the possibilities provided by telemedicine services in advancing health and well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. Knowledge gained from the study can be utilized in the development of telemedicine services and their management as well as professionals’ training.
The research was carried out as a qualitative interview study and data consisted of semi-structured interviews of frequent users of healthcare services (n=30). Interviewees were selected via random sampling from a healthcare register of a medium-sized city. Interviews were conducted by phone between February and May of 2021 and transcribed materials were further analyzed using inductive content analysis.
Content analysis resulted in 4 main categories and 9 categories. Frequent users of the services brought up possibilities provided by telemedicine services in advancing health and well-being such as self-care opportunities and advancement of healthcare using telemedicine services. Interviewees’ experiences described the following factors for the accessibility of telemedicine services: ease-of-use of telemedicine services and measures to enhance accessibility. Know-how related factors consisted of knowledge or illness-related challenges, programs’ accessibility issues, and lack of training and guidance for telemedicine services. Personal preference-related factors included personal reasons and usage cases that required physical presence.
As a conclusion it can be noted that the accessibility and usability of telemedicine services and frequent healthcare users’ digital proficiency affects the usage of telemedicine services. Telemedicine services should be developed to be more accessible and be available in diverse methods for those with proficiency to use them, especially the availability of remote doctor’s appointments was considered important. Physical services should also still be offered for those in need of them.
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