Primary Care Team Members Report Greater Individual Benefits from Long- Versus Short-Term Specialty Telemedicine Mentorship

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BACKGROUND: Primary care providers who participate in structured specialty telemedicine mentorship report improvements in clinical content mastery, professional satisfaction, and specialist communication.

INTRODUCTION: Although these programs require investments of infrastructure resources and time, the duration of participation required to accrue optimal benefits is not known. We aimed to assess whether duration of participation is related to improved benefits of a longitudinal telemedicine-based mentorship program, specifically regarding perceived specialty care access, acquisition of new knowledge and skills, team integration, and overall job satisfaction.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted an e-mail survey of Veterans Affairs-based primary care team members in the United States' Pacific Northwest region who engaged in a longitudinal telemedicine mentorship program (n = 78).

RESULTS: After adjustment for potential confounding factors, respondents who engaged in telemedicine mentorship for ≥1 year were significantly more likely to strongly agree that telemedicine mentorship improved patient access to specialty care (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 9.3, p < 0.005) and was useful in treating other patients on their panels (AOR = 3.7, p = 0.04). Participation ≥1 year was also associated with higher self-reported knowledge and competencies (AOR = 4.0, p = 0.03) and with perception of integration into a clinical team (AOR = 5.6, p = 0.01), but not with overall job satisfaction.

CONCLUSION: Telemedicine-based specialty mentorship programs are highly valued by primary care-based participants, and self-reported benefits accumulate beyond 1 year of participation.