Telemonitoring during the COVID-19 pandemic at the primary care level: patients’ perspective

Diana Podgoršek, Matic Mihevc, Marija Petek Šter

Keywords: COVID-19, pandemic, telemonitoring, primary care, qualitative research

The rapidly progressive course of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), staff shortages, and the contagious nature of the disease contributed to the introduction of simple telemonitoring of blood oxygen saturation. However, uncertain patient compliance and satisfaction warranted further research.

Research questions:
This study aimed to qualitatively determine the feasibility, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of telemonitoring in patients at high risk for hospitalisation due to COVID-19.

A qualitative study was conducted among 77 COVID-19 patients who received telemedicine care at PHC Trebnje between October 2020 and June 2021. After recovery, patients were contacted to participate in a semi-structured interview using a standardised interview guide for data collection. The interviews were recorded and transcribed. Afterwards, two independent researchers analysed the text using an inductive (coding) and later deductive approach (themes) to form the highest analytic units – categories.

The mean age of the patients was 67.8 ± 14.9 years, of which 64.9% were male. Data saturation was reached after 25 interviews. The average length of the interviews was 4 minutes. Qualitative analysis revealed that the greatest strength was the sense of security patients felt when measuring oxygen saturation at times of discomfort. However, many patients were concerned about inaccurate readings from pulse oximeters. Additionally, there was a widespread misconception that home telemonitoring only delayed hospitalisation. Therefore, the greatest threat of the system was poorly given instructions.

Telemonitoring of patients with COVID-19 proved to be an acceptable method of remote care during the pandemic. Moreover, because of its simplicity, the telemonitoring model could be extended to other chronic respiratory or heart diseases after the pandemic.

Points for discussion:
What are your experiences with telemedicine care during the COVID-19 pandemic?

How did you successfully engage older people in telemonitoring systems?