New policy framework for telehealth unveiled by Staffordshire University researchers

Staffordshire University has launched a new policy brief to guide the creation of telehealth patient consultation guidelines and training.

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The framework will assist Allied Health Professions with the creation of telehealth patient consultation guidelines and training.

This work is a shining example of research that has successfully translated into real-world policy.

Professor Nachi Chockalingam, Director of the Centre for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies

The framework, developed in partnership with Allied Health Professions (AHPs), has been presented to professional body representatives, managers and policy makers in the UK and overseas.

It follows on from research conducted by a team at Staffordshire University which found that many Allied Health Professionals are not adequately supported in the delivery of remote patient consultations.

The COVID-19 pandemic saw an unprecedented expansion of telehealth with a shift to remote patient consultations across the professions which includes prosthetics and orthotists, physiotherapy, podiatry, orthoptists, occupational therapists, dieticians and osteopathy. The 14 AHPs make up the third largest healthcare workforce in the UK’s National Health Service and play a vital role in the health and care of patients.

However a study, led by Staffordshire University and part funded by Public Health England via the British Association of Prosthetics and Orthotics, demonstrated that current telehealth guidelines and training programmes for AHPs were not sufficiently comprehensive and lack information on key telehealth aspects.

Lead researcher Dr Aoife Healy, said: “Based on our research, we recommend that telehealth guidelines and training should include information on patient privacy, data security, and the use of technology which is consistent across the professions.”

Dr Nicky Eddison, a practising orthotist and a key member of the team added: “Telehealth training should be mandatory for all AHPs, alongside access to ongoing professional development opportunities.”

The new framework highlights the importance of investing in telehealth infrastructure and training to ensure that AHPs can continue to provide high-quality care to patients, even in the face of a pandemic.

Professor Nachi Chockalingam, Director of the Centre for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies at Staffordshire University, said “This work is a shining example of research that has successfully translated into real-world policy. All 14 AHP professional bodies have endorsed our work and they have been involved as stakeholders. We believe many of them will now adopt this framework which they can adapt for their use.”

“It's essential that all our healthcare professionals are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to provide high-quality care to patients remotely.”

The full studies which inform this policy can be found at:

Leone E, Eddison N, Healy A, Royse C, Chockalingam N. Exploration of implementation, financial and technical considerations within allied health professional (AHP) telehealth consultation guidance: a scoping review including UK AHP professional bodies' guidance. BMJ Open. 2021 Dec 27;11(12):e055823. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-055823. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/11/12/e055823.long

Eddison N, Leone E, Healy A, Royse C, Chockalingam N. The potential impact of allied health professional telehealth consultations on health inequities and the burden of treatment. Int J Equity Health. 2022 Jun 30;21(1):91. doi: 10.1186/s12939-022-01689-2. https://equityhealthj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12939-022-01689-2

Leone E, Eddison N, Healy A, Royse C, Chockalingam N. Do UK Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) have sufficient guidelines and training to provide telehealth patient consultations? Hum Resour Health. 2022 Dec 5;20(1):82. doi: 10.1186/s12960-022-00778-1. https://human-resources-health.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12960-022-00778-1

Eddison N, Royse C, Healy A, Leone E, Chockalingam N. Telehealth provision across allied health professions (AHP): An investigation of reimbursement considerations for its successful implementation in England. Health Sci Rep. 2022 Dec 13;6(1):e991. doi: 10.1002/hsr2.991. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hsr2.991

 

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