Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate parent and therapist experience and cost savings from the payer perspective associated with a novel tele-physiatry program for children living in rural and underserved communities.
Design: We designed a noninferiority, cluster-randomized crossover study at 4 school-based clinics to evaluate parent experience and perceived quality of care between a telemedicine-based approach in which the physiatrist conducts the visit remotely with an in-person therapist and a traditional in-person physiatrist clinic.
Setting: Four school-based clinics in Northern California.
Participants: A total of 268 encounters (124 telemedicine and 144 in-person) were completed by 200 unique patients (N=200).
Interventions: Not applicable.
Main outcome measures: Parent and therapist experience scores.
Results: For parents and therapists, experience and perceived quality of care were high with no significant differences between telemedicine and in-person encounters. For parents whose children received a telemedicine encounter, 40 (54.8%) reported no preference for their child's subsequent encounter, 21 (28.8%) preferred a physiatrist telemedicine visit, and 12 (16.4%) preferred a physiatrist in-person visit. From the payer perspective, costs were $100 higher for in-person clinics owing to physician mileage reimbursement.
Conclusions: We found that school-based tele-physiatry for children with special health care needs is not inferior to in-person encounters with regard to parent and provider experience and perceived quality of care. Tele-physiatry was also associated with an average cost savings of $100 per clinic to the payer.
Keywords: Disabled children; Healthcare disparities; Physical medicine and rehabilitation; Rehabilitation; Rural populations, Telemedicine.
Copyright © 2021 The American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.