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Changes in attitudes towards telemedicine in acute burn care following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Burns 2024 May 9
BACKGROUND: Telemedical referrals after burn injury had been shown to be advantageous over telephone referrals for multiple reasons, however there were several key barriers towards complete implementation. The Covid-19 pandemic facilitated the adoption of telemedicine to ensure the safety of both clinicians and patients. Due to the circumstances, it was unclear whether the pre-pandemic barriers still existed despite the complete implementation of telemedicine. This study aims to evaluate clinicians' views about the barriers towards implementation of a specific telemedicine system for burns referrals, and their changing attitudes following the pandemic, to identify key domains for improvement in current and future telemedicine systems.

METHODS: A questionnaire was created to evaluate the attitudes of referring clinicians towards telemedicine, following literature searches and administration of a pilot questionnaire. This was administered via telephone to staff working in EDs and MIUs which referred to the South-West United Kingdom Burns Network using the Medical Data Solutions and Services (MDSAS) system, in both 2019 and 2022. A statistical analysis was performed to compare the attitudes of clinicians towards telemedicine both pre- and post-pandemic.

RESULTS: 100 respondents completed the survey in 2019 and 70 in 2022, with similar demographics of respondents. Out of the twelve barriers identified, the lack of reliable Wi-Fi and need to duplicate notes were identified as the main obstacles to implementation in both time periods. In both years, the single greatest barrier reported was poor access to reliable Wi-Fi (p = 0.944). Miscommunication between clinicians using the system, inadequate numbers of devices and financial constraints were identified less frequently as barriers in 2022 than 2019 (p = 0.005, p = 0.047 and p < 0.001 respectively). However, significantly more respondents reported time pressures when waiting for a response to their telemedicine referral in 2022 (p = 0.022).

CONCLUSION: Overall, clinicians displayed a positive attitude towards the MDSAS system for acute burns, with clinicians identifying fewer concerns with the system following the Covid-19 pandemic. However, concerns over the time pressures that this telemedicine system places on the referring clinician and existing Wi-Fi infrastructure persist. Further streamlining of the system and investment in internet access is recommended, with continued input from all stakeholders.

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