Discovering untapped relationship potential with patients in telehealth: a qualitative interview study

Heckemann, Birgit; Wolf, Axel; Ali, Lila; Sonntag, Steffen M.; Ekman, Inger (2016). Discovering untapped relationship potential with patients in telehealth: a qualitative interview study BMJ Open, 6(3), pp. 1-9. BMJ 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009750

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OBJECTIVES: To explore factors that influence relationship building between telehealth professionals and patients with chronic illness over a distance, from a telehealth professional's perspective. DESIGN: 4 focus group interviews were conducted in June 2014. Digital recordings were transcribed verbatim and qualitative content analysis was performed using an iterative process of 3 coding rounds. PARTICIPANTS: 20 telehealth professionals. SETTING: A telehealth service centre in the south of Germany that provided care for 12 000 patients with chronic heart failure across Germany. RESULTS: Non-video telehealth technology creates an atmosphere that fosters sharing of personal information and a non-judgemental attitude. This facilitates the delivery of fair and equal healthcare. A combination of a protocol-driven service structure along with shared team and organisational values provide a basis for establishing long-term healthcare relationships. However, each contact between a telehealth professional and a patient has an uncertain outcome and requires skilful negotiation of the relationship. Although care provision was personalised, there was scope to include the patients as 'experts on their own illness' to a greater extent as advocated by person-centred care. Currently, provision of person-centred care is not sufficiently addressed in telehealth professional training. CONCLUSIONS: Telehealth offers a viable environment for the delivery of person-centred care for patients with long-standing disease. Current telehealth training programmes may be enhanced by teaching person-centred care skills.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


School of Health Professions
School of Health Professions > Nursing


Heckemann, Birgit;
Wolf, Axel;
Ali, Lila;
Sonntag, Steffen M. and
Ekman, Inger








Luca Federico

Date Deposited:

29 Mar 2021 12:13

Last Modified:

29 Mar 2021 12:13

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Additional Information:

Notes: 2044-6055 Heckemann, Birgit ORCID: Wolf, Axel Ali, Lilas Sonntag, Steffen Mark Ekman, Inger Journal Article England BMJ Open. 2016 Mar 2;6(3):e009750. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009750. Custom 1: PMC4785285 Custom 2: 2016/03/05 Date: 2016

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Qualitative research




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