Background: Telehealth appears to be an ideal mechanism for assisting rural patients and doctors and medical students/registrars in accessing specialist services. Telehealth is the use of enhanced broadband technology to provide telemedicine and education over distance. It provides accessible support to rural primary care providers and medical educators. A telehealth consultation is where a patient at a general practice, with the assistance of the general practitioner or practice nurse, undertakes a consultation by videoconference with a specialist located elsewhere. Multiple benefits of telehealth consulting have been reported, particularly those relevant to rural patients and health care providers. However there is a paucity of research on the benefits of telehealth to medical education and learning.
Objective: This protocol explains in depth the process that will be undertaken by a collaborative group of universities and training providers in this unique project.
Methods: Training sessions in telehealth consulting will be provided for participating practices and students. The trial will then use telehealth consulting as a real-patient learning experience for students, general practitioner trainees, general practitioner preceptors, and trainees.
Results: Results will be available when the trial has been completed in 2015.
Conclusions: The protocol has been written to reflect the overarching premise that, by building virtual communities of practice with users of telehealth in medical education, a more sustainable and rigorous model can be developed. The Telehealth Skills Training and Implementation Project will implement and evaluate a theoretically driven model of Internet-facilitated medical education for vertically integrated, community-based learning environments