The use of telemedicine for perioperative pain management during the COVID-19 pandemic

J Telemed Telecare. 2023 Mar 27;1357633X231162399. doi: 10.1177/1357633X231162399. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: Using a human factors engineering approach, the Johns Hopkins Personalized Pain Program adopted telemedicine for perioperative pain management in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This study examines the impact of telemedicine adoption on the quality and outcomes of perioperative pain management.

Methods: A mixed-methods study with a convergent parallel design was conducted. From June 2017 to December 2021, 902 patients participated in the Personalized Pain Program. Quantitative data on daily opioid consumption, pain severity and interference, physical and mental health status, and patient satisfaction and engagement were continuously collected with all patients using chart review and patient surveys. Beginning 23 March 2020, the Personalized Pain Program transitioned to telemedicine. A pre-post quasi-experimental design was used to examine the impact of telemedicine. In addition, qualitative interviews were conducted with 3 clinicians and 17 patients to explore their experience with telemedicine visits.

Results: The monthly number of new patients seen in the Personalized Pain Program did not significantly change before and after telemedicine adoption. Compared to patients having in-person visits before the pandemic, patients having telemedicine visits during the pandemic achieved comparable improvements in daily opioid consumption, pain severity and interference, and physical health status. While telemedicine helped overcome many challenges faced by the patients, the limitations of telemedicine were also discussed.

Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic stimulated the use of telemedicine. To facilitate telemedicine adoption beyond the pandemic, future research is needed to examine best practices for telemedicine adoption and provide additional evidence on the effectiveness of telemedicine.

Keywords: COVID-19; Perioperative pain management; digital health; human factors; opioid use disorder; telemedicine.