Background: Technologic advances in communications have facilitated the development and diffusion of telemedicine. Most applications have focused on remote outpatient management of medical conditions. We assessed the impact of introducing remote video conferencing during the immediate postoperative period (telerounds) on patient-reported satisfaction with their hospitalization.
Study design: Between October 2002 and June 2003,85 patients undergoing elective laparoscopic or percutaneous urologic procedures were enrolled in a trial testing the impact of telerounds on patients' satisfaction with their hospitalization. Participants were entered into one of three postoperative care arms: standard once-daily attending bedside rounds; standard once-daily attending level bedside rounds plus one afternoon telerounding visit; or a substitution of one daily bedside round with a robotic telerounding visit. Participants completed a validated patient satisfaction survey 2 weeks after hospital discharge.
Results: Eighty-five individuals (100% response rate) completed the questionnaire. With responses dichotomized to "excellent" or "other," patients in the telerounding arm demonstrated statistically substantial improvements in ratings of examination thoroughness, quality of discussions about medical information, postoperative care coordination, and attending physician availability. Patients in the robotic telerounding arm indicated considerably higher satisfaction with regard to physician availability. After adjusting for age differences, ratings of each of the previously listed aspects of care remained notably improved in the telerounding arm.
Conclusions: Telerounding either as an additional visit or as a substituted bedside visit is associated with increased patient satisfaction in postoperative care. This type of interaction appears to acceptably facilitate physician communication with hospitalized patients.