Teletrials utilise telehealth technology to allow clinicians at a larger centre (primary site) to enrol, obtain consent from and treat patients on clinical trials in collaboration with smaller regional and rural centres (teletrial sites).
What is telehealth?
Telehealth is the secure transmission of images, voice and data between two or more sites via telecommunication channels. The platform allows sites to provide clinical advice, consultation, monitoring, education and training and administrative services.
For a teletrial, this is usually in the form of a videoconference between the primary and satellite sites. This means the patient would only have to attend their local hospital; participating in virtual trial visits with the investigating clinician at the primary site.
Set up requirements
If the regional hospital regularly conducts telehealth consultations for patients, the required facilities will already be available to conduct a joint telehealth video consultation for a teletrial.
Most public hospitals will have a government provided platform to conduct telehealth consultations (such as HealthDirect Australia Video Call platform). However, if an institution does not have this platform, other commercially supported applications that have reasonable inbuilt and automated security and privacy controls may acceptable.
Expensive equipment or technology is not required – video conferencing can be done using any computer with a web camera and microphone, as well as a private area to conduct the consultation, such as a consulting room.
When conducting trial visits via joint telehealth consultation, consideration will need to be given to scheduling of appointments to ensure that visits are at a time suitable to both the primary site and teletrial site study teams.
Medico-legal considerations for telehealth services
The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services has developed a resource for health services and clinicians which provides an overview of the laws that need to be considered when delivering or receiving medical advice using telehealth technologies.