Telemedicine was increasingly used to provide patients with an alternative to in-office visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. While previous studies have described the role of telemedicine for preoperative visits for other surgical specialties, the role of this modality in preoperative visits for gynecologic surgery has not been thoroughly explored.
The aims of the study are to explore and compare patient experience, decision making, and satisfaction among women undergoing telemedicine or in-person preoperative visits.
This was a qualitative study of women who underwent a preoperative appointment with a urogynecologic surgeon or minimally invasive gynecologic surgeon at a single academic institution from April to May of 2021. Data were collected using semistructured phone interviews, which focused on visit content, visit type decision making, surgical preparedness/confidence, and past surgical experiences. Interviews were thematically analyzed until theoretical saturation was achieved in accordance with grounded theory.
Theoretical saturation occurred with 20 interviews. Participants were evenly divided between in-person and telemedicine visits. Major themes included visit content, experience/quality, surgeon perception, and surgical preparedness. Advantages of telemedicine visits were convenience and safety. Advantages of in-person visits were social factors, perceived medical or surgical severity, and preoperative physical examination. Disadvantages for telemedicine visits included technology concerns and difficulty accessing preoperative materials. The disadvantage of an in-person visit was the inability to have family present because of COVID hospital policy restrictions. Participants in both groups felt prepared for surgery and reported high satisfaction with their care.
Decision making for selecting an in-person or telemedicine visit is complex and involves balancing multiple advantages and disadvantages. Participant experience was similar for both visit types with high satisfaction.