Assessing patient safety in a pediatric telemedicine setting: A multi-methods study

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Background: Telemedicine and telephone-triage may compromise patient safety, particularly if urgency is underestimated. We aimed to explore the level of safety of a pediatric telemedicine service, with particular reference to the appropriateness of the medical diagnoses made by the online physicians and the reasonableness of their decisions. Methods: This retrospective multi-method study investigated the decision-making process of physicians in a pediatric tele-triage service provided in Israel. The first section of the study investigates several measures relating to patient safety in the telemedicine setting. Two physicians reviewed a random sample of 339 parent-physician consultations conducted via a pediatric telemedicine service provided by a healthcare organization during 2014-2017. The consultations were analyzed for factors that may have affected the online physicians' decisions, with an emphasis on the appropriateness of the diagnoses and the reasonableness of the decisions. The online physicians' decisions were also compared to the subsequent outcomes (i.e., parental compliance with the recommendations and medical follow-ups within the healthcare system) after each consultation. The second section of the study (using a qualitative approach) consisted of interviews with 15 physicians who work in the pediatric telemedicine service, in order to explore their subjective experiences and efforts for assuring patient safety. The physicians were asked about factors that may have affected their reaching an appropriate diagnosis and a reasonable decision while maintaining patient safety. Results: The first section of the study demonstrates high levels of diagnosis appropriateness (98.5%) and decision reasonableness (92%), as well as low levels of false-positive (2.65%) and false-negative (5.3%), good sensitivity (82.85%), and high specificity (96.15%). A high association between the online decisions and the subsequent outcomes was also observed. The second section of the study presents physicians' means for ensuring high patient safety-by implementing a range of factors that helped them reach appropriate diagnoses and reasonable decisions. Conclusions: The results show overall high patient safety in the pediatric tele-triage service that was examined. However, decision makers must strive to implement additional means for further enhancing the clinicians' ability to reach accurate diagnoses and provide optimal treatments within the tele-triage settings-with the aim of ensuring patient safety.

Original languageEnglish
Article number63
JournalBMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making
Issue number1
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s).


  • Appropriateness
  • Decision-making
  • Patient safety
  • Pediatrics
  • Reasonableness
  • Telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Health Informatics
  • Computer Science Applications


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