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Telemedicine safe, cheaper than in-person visit for paediatric urological postoperative care

12 Jul 2020

Virtual visits for paediatric postoperative care are safe, convenient, and economical, resulting in shorter wait times, reduced missed work and school, and clinical outcomes comparable to those of in-person visits, a recent study has shown.

“Telemedicine appears to reduce the costs associated with these brief but important encounters,” the authors said.

A total of 107 virtual and 100 in-person postoperative visits were completed in this study. No difference was noted in patient characteristics, appointment compliance, or clinical outcomes between the two cohorts.

Of the total time spent for an in-person visit, 98.4 percent was accounted for by travel and waiting for care. On the other hand, parents and children had significantly less work and school missed with the virtual visit, respectively.

In terms of opportunity costs associated with an in-person visit, virtual visit was significantly cheaper compared with in-person visit: $1.14 vs $23.75 per minute of face time with a physician.

This prospective cohort study compared postoperative virtual and in-person visits during a 4-month period in 2018. The authors then tracked appointment status and time metrics. Families involved completed a survey that assessed missed work/school and direct costs after each visit. Opportunity cost was calculated using reported missed work time, average national hourly wage, and visit duration.

The authors compared virtual visits (ie, remote patient encounters) via a live video system, with conventional in-person visits with respect to clinical outcomes, family experience, and costs in a paediatric urology surgical population. Safety of virtual visits was assessed by comparing the number of additional in-person visits, emergency department encounters, and hospital readmissions.

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