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Introduction: Telehealth allows behavioral health care and specialty services to be extended to rural residents. Telehealth is an important resource for the Alaskan healthcare system, which is tasked with providing services to culturally diverse populations living in remote areas. Training competent providers to deliver telehealth services is vital for the implementation of successful telehealth programs. Yet, the literature is lacking in the area of provider behavioral telehealth competency training.

Methods: This study assessed the impact of a Behavioral Telehealth Ethical Competencies Training program on 16 behavioral health providers' development of behavioral telehealth competency. A total of 14 competencies were developed, which required participants to understand the roles and responsibilities of a behavioral telehealth coordinator working at the distal site as well as the roles and responsibilities of the therapist. Video vignettes evaluating the 14 competencies, self-reported competence surveys and follow-up surveys of progress on telehealth goals were utilized to assess effects of the training.

Results: Results indicated participants' behavioral telehealth competencies increased following training. Participants reported positive perceptions regarding their competency, and achieved progress on the majority of behavioral telehealth goals set during the training.

Conclusions: This study provides a baseline for developing a best practice model for behavioral telehealth service delivery by identifying specific provider competencies for administering effective behavioral telehealth services. A unique continuing education training model, led by content experts including university professors and Alaska Native Elders, incorporating behavioral telehealth, rural ethics, cultural competency and vicarious trauma training is described. Lastly, this study details the use of an innovative video vignette assessment instrument for evaluating the effectiveness of continuing education training.

Copyright Statement

© V Gifford, B Niles, I Rivkin, C Koverola, J Polaha, 2012. The document was originally published in Rural and Remote Health.