Exploring Key Components of Successful Distance Learning Programs: A Case Study in Palau

Main Article Content

Tyler Thorne
Maiya Smith
Gregory Dever


Distance Learning, Palau, Telehealth


Introduction: The Pacific faces multiple healthcare crises, including high rates of noncommunicable diseases, infectious disease outbreaks, and susceptibility to natural disasters. These issues are expected to worsen in the coming decades, increasing the burden on an already understaffed healthcare system. Improvements in technology and accessibility have increased telehealth’s utility and have already proven to reduce costs and increase access to care in remote areas. Telehealth includes distance learning; a form of education that can help alleviate many healthcare issues by providing education to healthcare professionals and upskilling staff, which can promote workforce retention and decrease patient mortality. Distance learning programs at the Ministry of Health in the Pacific nation of Palau were examined and key elements to their success were identified.

Methods: Thirty-four people, mostly health professionals at the Belau National Hospital in Palau were interviewed. Standardized questions and surveys were conducted in person throughout the month of July 2019.

Findings: Two examples of successful distance learning programs were identified. Consulting with staff and analyzing each program, four factors for a successful distance learning program were identified: having a cohort, having a facilitator, dedicated study time off from work, and motivation.

Conclusions: In countries as geographically isolated as the Pacific, with poor access to specialists and resources, telehealth has the potential to radically change how healthcare is delivered. Palau shares similar resources and issues as other countries in the Pacific and the lessons learned from their successful programs can be adapted to help other Pacific nations develop their own distance learning programs.

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