Discovering untapped relationship potential with patients in telehealth: a qualitative interview study

Birgit Heckemann*, Axel Wolf, Lilas Ali, Steffen Mark Sonntag, Inger Ekman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


To explore factors that influence relationship building between telehealth professionals and patients with chronic illness over a distance, from a telehealth professional's perspective.4 focus group interviews were conducted in June 2014. Digital recordings were transcribed verbatim and qualitative content analysis was performed using an iterative process of 3 coding rounds.20 telehealth professionals.A telehealth service centre in the south of Germany that provided care for 12,000 patients with chronic heart failure across Germany.Non-video telehealth technology creates an atmosphere that fosters sharing of personal information and a non-judgemental attitude. This facilitates the delivery of fair and equal healthcare. A combination of a protocol-driven service structure along with shared team and organisational values provide a basis for establishing long-term healthcare relationships. However, each contact between a telehealth professional and a patient has an uncertain outcome and requires skillful negotiation of the relationship. Although care provision was personalised, there was scope to include the patients as 'experts on their own illness' to a greater extent as advocated by person-centred care. Currently, provision of person-centred care is not sufficiently addressed in telehealth professional training.Telehealth offers a viable environment for the delivery of person-centred care for patients with long-standing disease. Current telehealth training programmes may be enhanced by teaching person-centred care skills.Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere009750
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016



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