This data was derived from a survey conducted by the multidisciplinary ReDO research project, which examined doctors' views on the use and acceptability of online therapies, and their views on the pros and cons of these therapies. The ReDO project is led by Oulu Business School. 412 doctors responded to the survey, of which three quarters work predominantly in public healthcare and 41% are psychiatrists.
Nearly all the respondents had heard about online therapy options, but only about a third had encouraged their patients to use them. Awareness about the content and use of online therapies was very low. Doctors working in public healthcare had a more positive attitude towards online therapies than doctors working in the private sector, and they considered online therapies to be an effective form of treatment.
Doctors specialising in psychiatry had the greatest awareness of online therapies, but occupational health physicians were most likely to use online therapies as part of their patients’ treatment. Online therapies were considered better alternatives to other early stage treatments due to their accessibility and cost. Effectiveness of the treatments, patient-friendliness, and availability of the services and effective resource management were mentioned as some of the benefits of online therapies.
Doctors also emphasised customer-centricity and flexibility of the services as benefits of online therapies. Online therapies should be seen as treatment options that are customer-centric, increase equality among patients and can be tailored for individual patients.
The doctors’ concerns about online therapies included a lack of contact with the patient, lack of information on online therapies and how to direct patients to them, liability issues and practical issues such as who pays for the service. The importance of a diagnosis, the assessment of a patient’s suitability for online therapy, and the service’s integration into the treatment chain were considered important.
The survey results will increase understanding of the role of digital self-services and provide a systematic way of understanding the introduction of, or barriers to online therapies.
‘The results indicated that online services are suitable not only for routine services but also for more complex services as part of a range of healthcare treatment options. This could mean new roles that support the patient and the doctor in the service process,’ says Saila Saraniemi, the research project’s Scientific Director from Oulu Business School.
It is important to develop digital services that support referring doctors in the identification of patient groups who would benefit from online therapy and to better monitor their patients’ progress. In addition, the roles and responsibilities of online therapy providers needs to be clarified and adequate monitoring ensured.
The survey was conducted by a multidisciplinary ReDO research project (Redefining Digital Opportunities, 2015–2017), which aims to understand how the logic of digital value creation can be utilised in developing a new service business. The project includes researchers from the universities of Oulu, Jyväskylä, Tampere and Griffith University in Australia, as well as researchers from VTT, HUS and HYKS.
The research project continues with a study of digital service experiences from the patients’ perspectives. Research on digital self-services and attitudes related to them, as well as what kind of structures best enable the integration of services into treatment plans is also needed in other healthcare services.
Photo: Mikko Törmänen
Last updated: 25.2.2019