HumanInsight Impact of Telemedicine on Prenatal Counseling at a Tertiary Fetal Center: A Mixed Methods Study
J Surg Res. 2022 Aug 25;280:288-295. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2022.07.020. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: COVID-19 spurred an unprecedented transition from in-person to telemedicine visits in March 2020 at our institution for all prenatal counseling sessions. This study aims to explore differences in demographics of expectant mothers evaluated pre- and post-telemedicine implementation and to explore the patient experience with telemedicine.
METHODS: A mixed methods study was completed for mothers with a pregnancy complicated by a fetal surgical anomaly who visited a large tertiary fetal center. Using medical records as quantitative data, patient information was collected for all prenatal visits from 3/2019 to 3/2021. The sample was grouped into pre- and post-telemedicine implementation (based on transition date of 3/2020). Univariate analysis was used to compare demographics between the study groups. Statistical significance was defined as P < 0.05. Eighteen semi-structured interviews were conducted from 8/2021 to 12/2021 to explore patients' experiences. Line-by-line coding and thematic analysis was performed to develop emerging themes.
RESULTS: 292 pregnancies were evaluated from 3/2019 to 3/2021 (pre-telemedicine 123, post-telemedicine 169). There was no significant difference in self-reported race (P = 0.28), ethnicity (P = 0.46), or primary language (P = 0.98). In qualitative interviews, patients reported advantages to telemedicine, including the convenience of the modality with the option to conduct their session in familiar settings (e.g., home) and avoid stressors (e.g., travel to the medical center and finding childcare). Some women reported difficulties establishing a physician-patient connection and a preference for in-person consultations.
CONCLUSIONS: There was no difference in patient demographics at our fetal center in the year leading up to, and the time following, a significant transition to telemedicine. However, patients had unique perspectives on the advantages and disadvantages of the telemedicine experience. To ensure patient centered care, these findings suggest patient preference should be considered when scheduling outpatient surgical counseling and visits.
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