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Open Access Research article

Is telemonitoring an option against shortage of physicians in rural regions? attitude towards telemedical devices in the North Rhine-Westphalian health survey, Germany

Claudia Terschüren*, Monika Mensing and Odile CL Mekel

Author Affiliations

NRW Centre for Health, Westerfeldstr. 35-37, Bielefeld 33611, Germany

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:95  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-95

Published: 16 April 2012

Abstract

Background

General practitioners (GP) in rural areas of Germany are struggling to find successors for their private practices. Telemonitoring at home offers an option to support remaining GPs and specialists in ambulatory care.

Methods

We assessed the knowledge and attitude towards telemedicine in the population of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Germany, in a population-based telephone survey.

Results

Out of 2,006 participants, 734 (36.6%) reported an awareness of telemedical devices. Only 37 participants (1.8%) have experience in using them. The majority of participants were in favour of using them in case of illness (72.2%). However, this approval declined with age. These findings were similar in rural and urban areas. Participants who were in favour of telemedicine (n = 1,480) strongly agreed that they would have to see their doctor less often, and that the doctor would recognize earlier relevant changes in their vital status. Participants who disliked to be monitored by telemedical devices preferred to receive immediate feedback from their physician. Especially, the elderly fear the loss of personal contact with their physician. They need the direct patient-physician communication.

Conclusions

The fear of being left alone with the technique needs to be compensated for today's elderly patients to enhance acceptance of home telemonitoring as support for remaining doctors either in the rural areas or cities.

Keywords:
Attitude; Home telemonitoring; Germany; Population-based survey; Telemedical devices; Telephone survey