Patients, doctors to continue using telemedicine postpandemic
Patients and healthcare practitioners in the endocrinology setting seem satisfied with the use of telemedicine, and most say that they would want to maintain such a system even after the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a study presented at the recently concluded ENDO 2021 virtual conference by the Endocrine Society.
“Telehealth can be more efficient for both patients and providers, but there are challenges with connectivity issues, particularly for patients and community hospitals in rural areas like our hospital,” said lead researcher Maryam Nemati, MD, of the San Joaquin General Hospital in French Camp, California, US.
“These issues need to be addressed, possibly through collaborations with local government and insurance companies,” she added.
The endocrinology clinic at the Hospital established a telemedicine scheme early in the course of the pandemic, holding virtual visits and consultations. After informed consent, patients who had had such an experience with the hospital, as well as healthcare providers, were surveyed regarding the benefits and limitations of telemedicine.
Patients showed high overall satisfaction with telemedicine. Seventy-seven percent, for instance, said that the quality of care they received over the virtual visits, both through video and phone consults, was almost the same as an in-person visit. [ENDO 2021, abstract P22-25]
In addition, 90 percent said that all their questions and concerns were adequately addressed in the telemedicine visits. More than half (54 percent) thought they spent less money with telemedicine, and 45 percent liked that they spent less time with a telehealth vs an in-person visit.
Among providers, 75 percent thought that the quality of care delivered was similar between video and in-person visits. Only 40 percent noted connection issues and 46 percent pointed out the lack of a physical exam.
Postpandemic, 65 percent of patients and 75 percent of providers said that they would like to continue with the telemedicine scheme for the clinic.
However, important limitations still hold telemedicine back. Twenty-five percent of patients said they encountered technical difficulties, while only 37 percent had no connectivity issues with their visits. Physicians also seem to feel constrained by phone visits: 60 percent felt that the lack of a physical exam was an important limitation and 87 percent said that quality of care was better in-person.
“Endocrinology clinics have significant number of patients who need long-term close follow-up for medication adjustments, symptom checks, and counseling,” said Nemati. “Our survey found most patients felt that quality of telehealth visits both via video and phone were like in-person visits, and telemedicine is less expensive and timesaving.”
“However, our providers felt that phone visits lack a physical examination component and therefore preferred video visits to phone visits,” she added. “Given these survey results, telemedicine—particularly video visits—can be incorporated as part of follow-up visits after the COVID crisis ends.”