Mixed-Methods Approach for Measuring the Impact of Video Telehealth on Outpatient Clinic Triage Nurse Workflow

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Abstract

Nurse-delivered telephone triage is a common component of outpatient clinic settings. Adding new communication technology to clinic triage has the potential to not only transform the triage process but also alter triage workflow. Evaluating the impact of new technology on an existing workflow is paramount to maximizing the efficiency of the delivery system. This study investigated triage nurse workflow before and after the implementation of video telehealth using a sequential mixed-methods protocol that combined ethnography and time-motion study to provide a robust analysis of the implementation environment. Outpatient clinic triage using video telehealth required significantly more time than telephone triage did, indicating a reduction in nurse efficiency. Despite the increased time needed to conduct video telehealth, nurses consistently rated it useful in providing triage. Interpretive analysis of the qualitative and quantitative data suggests that the increased depth and breadth of data available during video triage alter the assessment that triage nurses provide physicians. This in turn could affect the time physicians spend formulating a diagnosis and treatment plan. While the immediate impact of video telehealth is a reduction in triage nurse efficiency, what is unknown is the impact of video telehealth on physician and overall clinic efficiency. Future studies should address this area.

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