Background: Remote video consultations are increasingly used in clinical practice, and a lot of data are emerging on its feasibility and acceptability. This study aims to bring out qualitative and quantitative data which will enhance our understanding of strengths and limitations of this media in the setting of a low- and middle-income country (LMIC).
Materials and methods: This was a prospective study conducted from January 2017 to May 2018, at the Department of Endocrine Surgery, Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS), Lucknow, India. A total of 107 patients were selected who chose remote follow-up care through social media (WhatsApp). Data were analyzed on feasibility, clinical safety, satisfaction and economic burden.
Results: A total of 107 postoperative patients were followed up using a social media tool. A total of 396 tele-sessions were held. The average number of tele-consultations per patient was 3.7 (range 2-6). Reasons for tele-follow-up included: confirmation of histology report (n = 92), medication dosage adjustments (n = 148), wound evaluation (n = 102), reporting of serum TSH and serum calcium levels (n = 296) and medical fitness certificate (n = 13). Wound evaluation through tele-follow-up was on par with the outpatient department (OPD) follow-up as no patient had to report to OPD for wound infection. Satisfaction level was excellent in 55% of patients and very good in 25%. 20% of the patients reported an average satisfaction level. If all of these 107 patients would have come to our OPD follow-up, they would have traveled 613.2 miles (908 km) per patient on an average, apart from losing work hours. Average cost and workdays saved per visit were $78 and 5.4 days, respectively.
Conclusion: Video consultation using social media tools is clinically safe and cost effective. Economic benefits far outweigh the risk of missing an adverse event, especially in the setting of low- and middle-income countries.