Telemedicine platforms have been developed to support the convenient delivery of health care services to their patients while maintaining appropriate quality of care. However, it is unclear whether they can be utilized effectively in patients with pediatric spinal deformity (PSD). Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the feasibility and patient satisfaction associated with virtual visit (VV) utilization in PSD patients in comparison to general pediatric orthopaedic indications.
Of the 482 VVs offered to pediatric orthopaedic patients at a large academic health care system between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2018, a total of 189 VVs conducted by board-certified orthopaedic surgeons were included in the final analysis. Patient satisfaction scores were collected at the end of each VV by patient and parent rankings of the surgeon and the telemedicine service. Data on patients, visits, and connectivity sessions characteristics were collected and statistically compared between PSD visits (n=33) versus those conducted for general pediatric orthopaedic indications (n=156).
Although PSD patients were older (15±3.7 vs. 12±4.7 y; P<0.01), mostly female (76% vs. 47%, P=0.003), and had longer VVs (8±4.6 vs. 5±3.6 min; P=0.003) versus their general pediatric orthopaedic counterparts, they demonstrated similarly high satisfaction scores for surgeon performance (5±0 vs. 4.8±0.1 points; P=0.08) and overall satisfaction (3±2.4 vs. 3.5±2.1; P=0.23). Approximately 80% of all VVs were conducted over mobile devices. Wait time was substantially less for PSD VVs relative to subsequent office visits (13±10 vs. 41±30 min; P<0.001).
Our analysis found that telemedicine VVs provided a convenient alternative to traditional in-office visits for PSD patients. Specifically, we found that PSD patients received faster care with comparable satisfaction. The findings of our present analysis should encourage health care systems to continually evaluate and implement telehealth platforms to improve both the accessibility and appropriate quality of care.
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