Background: The current COVID-19 pandemic has implications on the morbidities of orthopedic patients due to lack of routine follow-ups, and inpatient and outpatient-based interventions. Telemedicine has recently emerged as an alternative for healthcare delivery to the patients and providing them with important information about orthopedic self-care and medications that can be followed without a hospital visit. However, due to lack of physical assessment, telemedicine is bound to have some limitations as well. The aim of this study is to analyze the effectiveness of proactive telemedicine in maintaining follow-up of orthopedic patients, and their satisfaction with telemedicine as an alternative mode of treatment delivery.
Methods: This one-month cross-sectional study enrolled the follow-up patients that visited the orthopedic outpatient-department in February 2020. The patients were sequentially called according to the order of their registration, on a daily basis. Consenting patients were provided with telemedicine-based consultations, and those requiring physical evaluation were called for outpatient visits after documenting the valid reasons. The response-rates and the volume of patients requiring physical visits were measured for different diagnosis-based groups. Patients were asked to complete a questionnaire that included overall patient satisfaction with telemedicine, its effectiveness, and ease in following the telemedicine-based treatment.
Results: The response rate to telemedicine was 88.67%. Among the patients availing telemedicine, 71.43% were managed without needing physical visits to the outpatient-department. The need for physical examination and failed patient-doctor communication were the most common reasons for advising physical outpatient visits. The overall satisfaction-rate to telemedicine was 92%, and only 7.2% of patients had difficulty in understanding or following telemedicine-based advice.
Conclusions: Telemedicine can effectively reduce the need for physical visits to outpatient-departments for follow up of orthopedic patients. The response-rate and overall patient-satisfaction rates to telemedicine are high. Further efforts in expanding the use of telemedicine and addressing its limitations, especially those related to the failed communications, are needed to develop it as an alternative to physical orthopedic consultations in the current situation.
Keywords: COVID-19; Orthopaedics; Patient care; Patient satisfaction; Telemedicine.
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