Training in telemedicine is rapidly becoming an essential requirement for clinicians. This way of working represents a leap in an unfamiliar direction for many doctors and the implications on their practice, and some may be more cautious than others when embracing it.
Firstly, get them on board! Very few people will be enthusiastic about learning a new skill if they cannot see the benefits. It’s important to recognise the differences across doctors’ roles and specialties, and focus on what’s most relevant to them. Consider and discuss the benefits of telemedicine, including rapid assessments of housebound patients, ease of obtaining second opinions, simpler coordination for multidisciplinary team meetings, and avoiding potentially unnecessary hospital admissions for patients with long-term conditions.
Training and implementation is key. Healthcare providers need to develop strategies and policies to support doctors becoming involved with telemedicine. This includes providing comprehensive teaching around the principles and advice from healthcare regulators, and ensuring that they can maintain standards of good medical practice (such as obtaining access to medical records in advance of consultations). Teaching on telemedicine may well become commonplace in medical schools for the next generation of doctors, and if so will need to constantly update as technology moves and improves.
Next, get practicing! Simulations are an ideal way to get used to telemedicine consultations, and due to their nature they are relatively easy to organise. These should contain scenarios which don’t go particularly smoothly and some which throw up common technical issues, in order to give confidence at troubleshooting simple problems. It will also demonstrate the need for a back-up plan if there are equipment failures or problems with the patient’s device during the consultation.