Telemedicine benefits include outreach to patients in remote areas and helping make scarce healthcare resources more accessible. Digital visits also save time and travel expenses for both patients and healthcare professionals. We’ve written about a wide range of telemedicine applications, from specialist consults to remote medical assistance for disaster site first responders.
A group of researchers, nurses, faculty, and Ph.D. students from the Department of Nephrology at Odense University Hospital in Denmark recently published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing the results of a study that evaluated telemedicine support for post-surgical kidney transplant recipients.
A kidney transplant requires consistent self-monitoring, treatment plan adherence, and caregiver communications. Organ transplants are the current treatment of choice for patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), but long-term successful outcomes depend on patient care plant compliance and follow-up care.
The study used a phenomenological‐hermeneutic approach to evaluate the post-transplant telemedicine support app and related follow-up workflow. For the record, hermeneutic phenomenology is a qualitative research method developed by the philosopher Martin Heidegger and others. According to a University of Calgary study in 2003, “Hermeneutic phenomenology is concerned with the life world or human experience as it is lived. The focus is toward illuminating details and seemingly trivial aspects within experience that may be taken for granted in our lives, with a goal of creating meaning and achieving a sense of understanding.”
Key to any phenomenologiical-hermeneutic endeavor is a shared understanding of a common knowledge set that includes both real-world events and truths and individual experience. In other words, the transplant patients and their caregivers knew and talked about the harsh realities of ESRD, the biological mechanics of post-transplant survival, and the patients’ individual experiences and feelings.
Sixteen patients, 16 doctors, and four nurses participated in individual interviews about the post-transplant telemedicine app and follow-up workflow. Subsequent interview analysis revealed that the patients found the app easy to use and helpful in the challenging post-surgical time period. The app and follow-up supported both the patients and caregivers, improving the communication and the observed sense of collaboration. Following these successful results, the Odense research staff continue to work on adding patient data and plan further studies.
While this study is not based on the typical hard-number research that is found in most scientific studies, the subjective approach is well accepted and makes good sense as a way to measure human interactions in a complex situation such as supporting organ-transplant patients.