Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Telemedicine Visits in a Pediatric Gastroenterology Service in the Context of COVID-19

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Nov 30;19(23):15999. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192315999.


Background: During the first months of COVID-19, the Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition service of the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu in Barcelona, a leading pediatric center in Spain, introduced a new model of non-face-to-face care.

Objective: To evaluate the impact of telephone consultations compared to those conducted face-to-face on healthcare utilization.

Methodology: Two main indicators of effectiveness are used: the degree of resolution (percentage of first telemedicine visits that did not generate any new visits in the following 4 and 12 months) and the average number of subsequent visits. A distinction was made between visits for general pathologies (less complex) and those for pathologies treated in monographic consultations (chronic or complex pathologies). Effectiveness at 4 and 12 months was also compared.

Results: After 4 months from the first visit, the degree of resolution is lower in the first telemedicine visits than in face-to-face visits for both general pathologies and those of monographic agendas for chronic and complex pathologies. After twelve months, the first general telemedicine visits are less resolute than face-to-face visits, while the resolution rate is the same for chronic and complex pathology visits. Each telemedicine visit generates on average more visits than face-to-face visits. In the short term, 133.4% more in the case of general visits and 51.4% more in the case of chronic and complex visits. In the long term, general telemedicine visits generate 57.31% more visits, while no statistically significant difference is observed between chronic and complex face-to-face and telemedicine visits.

Conclusion: The results of this study show that the resolution capacity of the non-face-to-face model in pediatric care in the pandemic context is generally lower and generates more successive visits than the face-to-face model. This lower performance of the telemedicine model should be counterbalanced with its advantages.

Keywords: COVID; effectiveness; gastroenterology; health economics; non-face-to-face care; pediatrics; telemedicine.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Spain / epidemiology
  • Telemedicine* / methods

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.