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Using Telehealth for Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations: A Process Evaluation of a National Pilot Project

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Nursing Volume: 15 Issue: 3 Dated: July/September 2019 Pages: 152-162
Wendy A. Walsh; Joan Meunier-Sham; Cheryl Re
Date Published
11 pages
This article reports on an evaluation of the process of implementing for the first time live sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) services provided via telehealth to support site clinicians conducting sexual assault forensic medical examinations for adult and adolescent patients.
The evaluation involved six sites in three states, including rural, tribal, military, and community hospitals. The purpose of this process evaluation was to determine the extent to which patients consented to telehealth technology, to examine how the technology worked, and to determine the types of assistance. The evaluation reviewed information for 215 sexual assault patients who presented at emergency departments and conducted telephone and online surveys with 178 clinicians who provided or received telehealth services. The evaluation determined that between May 1, 2015, and March 31, 2018, 129 patients and site clinicians received services via telehealth, and an additional 86 site clinicians received consultation advice via telehealth. Most patients consented and accepted SANE services via telehealth (86 percent overall and 97 percent in non-U.S. Navy sites). No significant technology problems were experienced for most interactions (92 percent). The assistance provided remotely by SANEs to site clinicians included guiding clinicians through history taking and documentation, forensic examination and evidence collection techniques, identifying and documenting injuries, and guiding clinical practice. Site clinicians reported, on average, a positive impact of the assistance on their confidence in providing an effective examination, their ability to provide their patient with the best care, and their sense of feeling supported. These findings of the evaluation of this pilot program suggest that using live telehealth services for sexual assault forensic examinations is a promising practice. (publisher abstract modified)