In the state of Hawai'i, nearly all pediatric surgical care is delivered on the main island of O'ahu at the state's primary tertiary children's hospital. Outpatient clinic visits require patients and families to travel to O'ahu. The direct and opportunity costs of this can be significant. The objective of this study was to characterize potential telehealth candidates to estimate the opportunity for telehealth delivery of outpatient pediatric surgical care. A retrospective chart review including all patients transported from neighbor islands for outpatient consultation with a pediatric surgeon on O'ahu over a 4-year period was performed. Each patient visit was examined to determine if the visit was eligible for telehealth services using stringent criteria. Direct, insurance-based costs of the travel necessary were then determined. Demographic data was used to characterize the patients potentially affected. A total of 1081 neighbor island patients were seen in the pediatric surgery clinic over 4 years. Thirty-one percent of these patients met criteria as candidates for telehealth visits. The majority of patients came from Hawai'i and Maui. Most patients were identified as Native Hawaiian or Asian. The average cost per trip was $112.53 per person, leading to a potential direct cost savings of $37,697 over 4 years. Over 30% of outpatient pediatric surgical encounters met stringent criteria as candidates for telehealth delivery of care. Given the significant number of patients that met our criteria, we believe there is an opportunity for direct, travel-based cost savings with the implementation of telehealth delivery of outpatient pediatric surgical care in Hawai'i.
Keywords: Hawai‘i; Pediatric Surgery; Telecare; Telehealth; Telemedicine.
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