HumanInsight Experience with telemedicine among rheumatology clinicians during the COVID-19 pandemic: an international survey
Rheumatol Adv Pract. 2022 May 12;6(2):rkac039. doi: 10.1093/rap/rkac039. eCollection 2022.
OBJECTIVE: The aim was to assess rheumatology clinicians' perceptions of telemedicine and their experiences before and during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional online survey and collected responses from rheumatology clinicians worldwide, between November 2020 and February 2021, regarding use and perceptions of telemedicine in rheumatology. We summarized data with descriptive statistics and qualitative analysis for free-text responses.
RESULTS: The survey was completed by 349 rheumatology clinicians from 49 countries; 59% were female and about two-thirds were in the 30-50 years age group. Academic affiliations were held by 55% of participants, and 44% were from North America. Before the pandemic, 24% of participants had experience with telemedicine, whereas about three-quarters used telemedicine for the first time during the pandemic. Overall, 56% thought they provided less adequate care with telemedicine. More than half of clinicians felt that telemedicine was adequate for evaluating crystalline arthritis, inflammatory arthritis and lupus flares. Telemedicine was felt to be inadequate for flares of myositis, vasculitis and scleroderma. Technical problems were reported in 29% of telemedicine encounters and were most commonly related to patient-encountered difficulties.
CONCLUSION: Most rheumatology clinicians used telemedicine for the first time during the pandemic. The quality of care provided was thought to be inferior to that provided in person for specific clinical situations. Additional efforts are needed to address barriers to effective telemedicine, such as patient-related technology issues, challenges with building rapport and performing a physical examination, and to define the appropriate scope of clinical scenarios conducive to telemedicine.
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