An action research approach to enhancing diagnostic care for general practice telehealth consultations

R.-A. Hardie, J. Thomas, J. Li, G. Sezgin, J. Dai-Keller, A. Georgiou

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background: Data from Victorian and New South Wales Primary Health Networks (PHNs) showed that in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, a rapid drop in general practice consultations occurred. Upon the introduction of temporary MBS item numbers for telehealth, consultations began to rise again. Our analysis of electronic general practice data revealed low uptake of video consultations compared to telephone as well as lower rates of pathology test referrals for telehealth, suggesting potential technology barriers and were flagged as a key concern for quality of care.

We decided to explore these findings qualitatively using ‘Action Research’, a study approach that aims to enhance practice in healthcare environments. One of its main benefits is the ability to empower practitioners by allowing them to directly engage with research and development of subsequent interventions. It can involve clinicians researching their own practice, or, as is the case in this study, engaging with researchers. Researchers and clinicians work together to identify research questions, seek and implement practical solutions, and systematically monitor and reflect on the process and outcomes of change.

We aimed to develop an Action Research approach to better understand telehealth use in general practice, and to gain perspective on the context of data-driven findings such as differences in pathology test ordering and low video uptake.

Methods: We conducted a 90-minute focus group, via teleconference. Interview questions were semi-structured and centred around the theme of telehealth use in general practice during the COVID-19 pandemic in Victoria and New South Wales. Participants included researchers, general practitioners (GPs), data custodians, and representatives from PHNs.

Results: Preliminary analysis of focus group transcripts revealed contextual factors affecting telehealth use in general practice. Emerging themes included access to information technology infrastructure/resources (devices, software, internet), clinician factors (time constraints, training), patient factors (language, age) as potential barriers affecting diagnostic quality. Further analyses will involve identifying subthemes and mapping to potential issues previously identified quantitatively

Conclusion: Involving clinicians and PHNs in Action Research allows for deeper insights into barriers and facilitators of telehealth that have the potential to affect diagnosis. This process will help inform quality improvement of clinical services, including pathology testing. These improvements may lead to more timely diagnosis and treatment. The process also allows for capacity building of clinicians to improve their own practice, and it enhances the relevance of evidence used in translational activities such as improvements to technology in general practice.

Disclosure of Interest Statement:
This work was funded by a grant from the Digital Health Cooperative Research Centre (DHCRC). The authors have no interests to declare,
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusUnpublished - 2022
EventAustralia and New Zealand Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine - Improving Diagnosis Conference - Virtual
Duration: 28 Apr 202229 Apr 2022


ConferenceAustralia and New Zealand Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine - Improving Diagnosis Conference
Abbreviated titleANZA-SIDM 2022


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