21 May [Case Study] Benefits of Telehealth for Incontinence Care
Benefits of Telehealth for patients in rural areas
Urinary incontinence (UI) can affect a wide range of patients no matter where they live. Patients who live in rural areas can be quite distant from necessary medical resources. “Telehealth, defined as the use of electronic technology to provide long-distance clinical care,”1 has successfully helped patients with a variety of health conditions.2
This article reviews a recent study conducted to determine how telehealth can improve the care of rural patients with UI. In this study, the use of telehealth specific to UI patients is referred to as Tele-Continence Care.3
The study collected data to determine:
1) Improvement in follow-up appointments
2) Effectiveness of the treatment plan
3) Patient satisfaction
4) Healthcare team support for telehealth
Initial continence evaluations and testing were done at a rural satellite clinic by a Nurse Practitioner who traveled from 90 miles away. One group was given a list of follow up options without Tele-Continence Care, while another group’s list included Tele-Continence Care. “Patients choosing Tele-Continence Care received a follow-up visit 3 weeks after their initial consult through electronic technology.” 3 Similar to a face-to-face appointment, the patient at the rural satellite clinic communicated with the Nurse Practitioner at a distant urban clinic. The result was a noticeable improvement.
In this study, the patients given the option of Tele-Continence Care showed a distinct improvement in all areas measured.3
- Improvement in follow-up appointments – The follow-up failure rate decreased from 45% to 14.3%.
- Effectiveness of the treatment plan – The severity of incontinence, as measured by the ICIQ-UI Short Form (International Consultation on Incontinence Questionnaire), showed a 36% improvement or reduction in symptom severity.
- Patient satisfaction – All patients showed a high degree of satisfaction with the Tele-Continence Care experience. On a range of 1-5, the mean score of all patients was 4.71. Many noted the associated convenience and decreased transportation costs.
- Healthcare team support – All members of the healthcare team associated with the Tele-Continence Care study gave the program the highest favorable rating on three survey questions.
This study shows definite advantages for Tele-Continence Care with patients in rural areas at some distance from urban medical professionals. While telehealth may not be an all-encompassing solution for the healthcare needs of rural residents, both patients and healthcare providers may be well served by continued Tele-Continence Care offerings.
1 Health Resources and Services Administration. (2016). Telehealth Programs. Retrieved from www.hrsa.gov/ruralhealth/telehealth/
2 Cassimatis, M. & Kavanagh, D. (2012) Effects of type 2 diabetes behavioral telehealth interventions on glycaemic control and adherence: A systematic review. Journal of Telemedicine & Telecare. 18(8) 447-450.
3 Schlittenhardt, M. Smith, S. & Ward-Smith, P. (2016) Tele-Continence Care: A novel approach for providers. Urologic Nursing. 36(5) 217-223.