Original Research

Women, clinician and IT staff perspectives on telehealth for enhanced gestational diabetes mellitus management in an Australian rural/regional setting


Tshepo Rasekaba1 PhD *

Helen Nightingale2 RM MMid, Level B Academic

John Furler3 PhD

Wen Kwang Lim4 MD

Jessica Triay5 MBBS

Irene Blackberry6 PhD


1, 6 John Richards Centre for Rural Ageing Research, La Trobe University, Wodonga, Victoria, Australia

2 Rural Department of Nursing & Midwifery, La Trobe Rural Health School, La Trobe University, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia

3 Department of General Practice, Melbourne Medical School, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

4 Department of Medicine and Aged Care, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

5 General Medicine and Endocrinology, Bendigo Health, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia

ACCEPTED: 25 November 2020

early abstract:

Background: Women in rural and regional areas encounter challenges when accessing care for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). A telehealth initiative for GDM care in an urban setting demonstrated positive effects on achieving glycaemic targets without compromising quality of care, but consumer and health service staff perspectives have not been explored.
Aim: This research aimed to identify the profiles of women accessing care for GDM in a large regional hospital with a rural catchment in Victoria, Australia as well as gain insight into the views of the women with GDM, clinicians and IT staff on the acceptability and feasibility of a GDM telehealth in this setting.
Clinical and demographic characteristics of women accessing the GDM service between October 2016 and October 2017 were audited. Semi-structured interviews were completed with nine patients, three clinical staff and two IT service staff. Quantitative and qualitative data were analysed descriptively and thematically, respectively.
Results: Telehealth was viewed favourably by women and staff with many perceived benefits identified around mitigating challenges of accessing care and service capacity and provision. Concerns were raised around potential costs incurred by women and health services in accessing telehealth initiatives. Staff also highlighted that moderation of workloads and coordination of telehealth services would be essential to the success of a future telehealth initiative.
Conclusion: This paper contributes important knowledge around GDM care in rural and regional settings and the perspectives of women with GDM, clinicians and technical support staff. Women and health services staff consider telehealth a feasible and acceptable alternative to current GDM care and address many of the barriers and impacts of attending care in person. Perceived benefits to patients and health services need to be balanced against the concerns around the work and costs to deliver GDM telehealth services.