Using the chat box supports primary medical care

As COVID-19 swept the country in 2020, primary care medical staff were forced to make dramatic changes to their practices with little to no help and inconsistent guidance from the federal government. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University created an 11-session COVID-19 Outreach Program for Community Outcomes (ECHO), which served as a telementoring education model for clinicians involved in the pandemic crisis in Classes. They encouraged interaction between attendees via a chat box. Researchers used text extracted from chat box interactions to assess how communications within the statewide program identified and addressed some of the needs of clinicians during the pandemic.

The researchers conducted a qualitative analysis of 11 chat box transcripts and explored the context of clinicians’ needs, as conceptualized by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which includes physiological and self-actualization needs, in addition to safety, love, belonging and esteem. Steeves-Reece et al identified three key content themes of clinicians using the chat box: 1) reliable answers and information; 2) practical resources; and 3) affirmation and peer support.

Participants were able to create a community through the use of a chat box where colleagues provided connection and validation, as well as a forum to discuss their fears, concerns and grievances. The researchers also saw many participants take on an advocacy role, another display of self-actualization. Additionally, participants advocated in the chat box for their marginalized and underserved patients and for those with special health needs. The chat box met the needs of many clinicians, including the ability to ask questions and provide feedback in this rapidly changing healthcare environment. The researchers write that identifying and meeting the needs of clinicians during a pandemic – or any public health crisis – is essential for primary care as a discipline to reach its full potential. While interactive virtual educational programs can be helpful, greater investments in public health and primary care are fundamental to supporting clinicians’ ability to respond in times of crisis.

Critical Pandemic Clinician Needs: Qualitative Discussion Box Findings in a Statewide ECHO COVID-19 Program

Anna L. Steeves-Reece, PhD Candidate, MPH, MA, et al

Oregon Rural Practice-Based Research Network, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon

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