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Clinical Appropriateness of Telehealth: A Qualitative Study of Endocrinologists' Perspectives.

Sitter KE, Wong DH, Bolton RE, Vimalananda VG. Clinical Appropriateness of Telehealth: A Qualitative Study of Endocrinologists' Perspectives. Journal of the Endocrine Society. 2022 Aug 1; 6(8):bvac089.

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BACKGROUND: Outpatient endocrinology care delivered by telehealth is likely to remain common after the pandemic. There are few data to guide endocrinologists' judgments of clinical appropriateness (safety and effectiveness) for telehealth by synchronous video. We examined how, in the absence of guidelines, endocrinologists determine clinical appropriateness for telehealth, and we identified their strategies to navigate barriers to safe and effective use. METHODS: We conducted qualitative, semi-structuredinterviews with 26 purposively selected US endocrinologists. We used a directed content analysis to characterize participant perceptions of which patients and situations were clinically appropriate for telehealth and to identify adaptations they made to accommodate telehealth visits. RESULTS: Endocrinologists' perspectives about appropriateness for telehealth were influenced by clinical considerations, nonclinical patient factors, and the type and timing of the visit. These factors were weighed differently across individual participants according to their risk tolerance, values related to the physical examination and patient relationships, and impressions of patient capabilities and preferences. Some participants made practice adaptations that increased their comfort offering telehealth to a wider swath of patients. CONCLUSIONS: Endocrinologists' judgments about clinical appropriateness of telehealth for different patient situations varied widely across participants. The risk of such divergent approaches to determining appropriateness is unintended and clinically unwarranted variation in use of telehealth, compromising quality of care. Expert consensus is needed to guide endocrinologists now, along with studies to anchor future evidence-based guidelines for determining clinical appropriateness of telehealth in endocrinology.

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