New study of US veterans suggests that people may soon be able to forgo in-person doctors' visits after surgery by opting instead for talking with their surgeons by phone or video. Researchers said that most patients preferred the virtual visits and the doctors didn't miss any infections that popped up after surgery
Study was published in the journal JAMA Surgery.
These kinds of methods are really important in the new healthcare environment. Therefore anything you can do to save money, see more patients and improve access to care is really important.
There is interest in so-called telehealth to increase access to healthcare while also decreasing the costs associated with traveling to office visits.
Past research has found that telehealth visits may be useful in the treatment of chronic conditions and after surgery, but less is known about patients’ preferences for these types of visits.
The study team evaluated data collected over several months in 2014 from 23 veterans, all but one of them men, who were seen three times after a simple operation that would require only a night or so in the hospital. One visit was via video, the second was via telephone and the third was an in-person office visit.
The researchers found that no post-operation infections were missed during the video or telephone visits. Overall, 69 percent of the participants said they preferred a telehealth visit over the traditional in-office visit. Those who preferred the telehealth visit tended to live farther away from the hospital than those who would rather come into the office.
However, this study was small, therefore researchers can’t yet say that telehealth visits won't miss problems. The study also can't assess how telehealth visits would work for patients who have undergone more complex surgeries.
Additionally, not all patient preferences will align with the telehealth model. There will be patients who want to be seen, be reassured and want a doctor to check something out. However, many patients will like the option. There is a subset of patients that it's not going to be appropriate for, but it's still a great alternative for the vast majority of patients.
Future research showing the results of the real-world implementation of telehealth will provide more information on its safety.