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An ethnographic study of the diffusion process of telemedicine in Scotland

Principal Researcher

Dr Tracy Ibbotson
Department of Nursing & Midwifery Studies
University of Glasgow
68 Oakfield Avenue
Glasgow GL12 8LS
+44 (0)141 330 5536


Ms Nessa Barry
University of Glasgow

Dr Jane Bower
Kinnell Technologies

Dr Margaret Reid
University of Glasgow

Research Period
23 February 1998 to
22 August 2000
Aims and Objectives
Project Design


Telemedicine is the use of cable links to provide health care when the participants are separated by distance. Telemedicine has the potential to reshape professional communication systems and professional practice by ignoring traditional patterns of professional consultations and referrals based upon geographical proximity. There has been a sharp increase in the uptake of telemedicine, but no strong evidence about the impact this will have on the National Health Service. This project examines the uptake within Scotland, studies factors which have enhanced or inhibited uptake, and so provides a description of the spread of telemedicine across Scotland.

Aims and Objectives

The planned investigation aims to:

  • describe the diffusion of telemedicine across Scotland

  • determine whether the user adoption issues change during the diffusion

  • assess the implications of telemedicine on overall resource allocation and apportionment.

Project Design

The project comprises three phases.

The first phase involves interviews with managers and executives in Health Boards and National Health Service Trusts to determine reasons for different rates of uptake of telemedicine.

In the second phase of the project, information is collected at telemedicine sites about the use of telemedicine; questionnaires are given to health professionals at each site to gauge changes in their views of telemedicine, and detailed observations of work practices at each site are also completed. In addition, information is collected to estimate the costs of introducing telemedicine into a health care setting and to compare these estimates with the perception of managers and chief executives responsible for deciding about the introduction of telemedicine.

In the third and final phase of the project, the findings are written up and distributed through a variety of channels.


The findings from this study will be used to generate recommendations about the introduction of virtual technologies and specifically, to identify reasons for non-uptake or potential requirements for training. In the long term, if telemedicine is found to be useful, these recommendations can be used to facilitate its effective implementation.

Visit the project web site



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Contents current at 19th November 1998