The findings below are based on a final internship report commissioned by IG&H, executed by healthcare research intern Nik Müller for the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Download the full report
Healthcare systems worldwide face financial challenges and staff shortages, impacting the accessibility to adequate patient care. The same counts for Saxony-Anhalt, a sparsely populated province in eastern Germany. To address this issue, a planned telemedicine platform aims to facilitate teleconsultations between doctors to increase the accessibility of medical knowledge in the region. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in digitalization projects in the healthcare sector. This led to much change and many new technologies in the working environments of many medical practitioners. This change has sometimes been met with resistance, resulting in the underutilization of digitalization projects.
To support the successful implementation and adoption of telemedicine in Saxony-Anhalt, it is crucial to understand the needs and requirements of medical practitioners. Exploring their opinions and beliefs about telemedicine can inform the successful design, development, and implementation of a telemedicine platform that addresses the effects of staff shortages. Therefore, this study aims to answer the following research question: Which factors influence the medical practitioner´s acceptance and use of a telemedicine platform that enables inter-hospital communication and collaboration in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany?
A qualitative research design was employed to explore the factors influencing telemedicine acceptance and utilization. Through purposive sampling, 24 participants consisting of medical practitioners, hospital managers, and IT technicians were selected for semi-structured interviews. The interviews were conducted in German and analyzed thematically.
The findings revealed several key factors that impact telemedicine acceptance and utilization. Regarding performance expectancy, physicians perceiving clear usefulness and advantages of telemedicine were likelier to adopt it. Communicating the benefits of telemedicine, such as quick access to second opinions, seemed crucial to increase acceptance. Moreover, participants highlighted the importance of an intuitive and user-friendly platform to minimize effort and save time. Physicians expressed concerns about complex digital environments, emphasizing the need for a design that is easy to use and balancing simplicity with advanced features and customization options is essential.
Furthermore, the subjective norm established around telemedicine due to the COVID-19 pandemic played a significant role, as physicians recognized telemedicine as a socially accepted and expected practice. Additionally, a positive attitude towards telemedicine adoption was reinforced by perceiving urgency and recognizing the need for the technology. Lastly, facilitating conditions, such as comprehensive training programs, technical support, information system compatibility, and clear reimbursement strategies, were crucial for a successful telemedicine implementation in Saxony-Anhalt.