What factors influence the quality and effectiveness of telesupervision? Findings from a systematic review of the literature

Ms Priya Martin1, Dr Saravana Kumar 2, Dr Lucylynn Lizarondo 3

1 Cunningham Centre, Baillie Henderson Hospital, Toowoomba, QLD-4350 &  International Centre for Allied Health Evidence (iCAHE), School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, SA – 5001. Priya.Martin@health.qld.gov.au

2 International Centre for Allied Health Evidence (iCAHE), School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, SA – 5001.

3 Joanna Briggs Institute, University of Adelaide, SA-5001.



Continuing professional development requires robust support mechanisms to maximise opportunities for achieving best practice in clinical settings. Clinical or professional supervision is one mechanism to do this and has been shown to benefit patients, health professionals and the organisations.  Supervision, as referred to here, is a formal process of professional support and learning which enables individual practitioners to develop knowledge and competence. With the rise in technology, telesupervision or supervision undertaken using technology is being increasingly used, especially in highly dispersed areas such as in Queensland. A variety of mediums are available for health professionals in the current era to connect and network with each other. While videoconference, teleconference and email are used more frequently, other social media tools such as blog, micro-blog, wiki, video chat, virtual world, podcast and social networks are also being used in supervision. However, the increasing use of telesupervision has not been complemented with the much-needed additional focus or increased research activity in this area, thus creating an interesting conundrum. In order to answer the question on ‘what factors enhance the quality and effectiveness of telesupervision?’ a systematic review of the literature was undertaken by the authors.


The systematic review protocol was developed which contained the key research question, inclusion and exclusion criteria, key words and list of targeted databases. The identified databases including CINAHL, Embase, PubMed, PsychInfo, AustHealth, Cochrane and Google Scholar were searched using the pre-determined key words. Subsequently, the study title and abstracts from the search results were screened to identify studies that met the inclusion criteria. Data from the included studies were extracted and synthesised to answer the key research question.


Eleven studies using both quantitative and/or qualitative methods met criteria and were included in the review. Synthesis of data resulted in the following key findings: there is a dearth of information on telesupervision, studies currently reported in the literature are generally small scale and are limited by study design and methodological issues; telesupervision works best when the supervisory relationship has been well-established; there are key individual factors that need to be considered before entering a telesupervision partnership, issues in technology are commonly experienced in telesupervision and that there is a need for further research on telesupervision using robust methodological designs.


The key findings will be interpreted and presented as factors that influence the quality and effectiveness of telesupervision. A range of recommendations including building effective supervision partnerships from the outset, managing technological issues, prioritising continuity over co-location, and consideration of personal attributes, will be outlined for health professionals to enhance their experience with telesupervision.

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