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Outpatient telemedicine in neurosurgery: 15,677 consecutive encounters in a comparative analysis of its effectiveness and impact on the surgical conversion rate

HumanInsight Outpatient telemedicine in neurosurgery: 15,677 consecutive encounters in a comparative analysis of its effectiveness and impact on the surgical conversion rate

J Neurosurg. 2023 Apr 14:1-10. doi: 10.3171/2023.2.JNS221477. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has necessitated the use of telehealth visits (THVs). The effects on neurosurgical practice have not been well characterized, especially concerning new-patient THVs. Therefore, the authors of this study reviewed their institution's experience with outpatient clinic visits and THVs from before the COVID-19 pandemic to the present to focus on clinical metrics, rates of surgery, and the effects of implementing THVs in order to better understand their implications for clinical practice as more data emerge over time.

METHODS: The authors reviewed 15,677 consecutive new outpatient in-person visits (IPVs), THVs, and neurosurgical procedures/cases proceeding from their institution between 2018 and 2022 for trends and associations related to THVs.

RESULTS: Among spine patients, there was no difference in the proportion of encounters that led to surgery (surgical conversion rate) between THVs and IPVs (p = 0.49). Among cranial patients, THVs were negatively associated with conversion (OR 0.73, p = 0.03). On average, patients using THVs lived further from the hospital (p < 0.001); however, the patient catchment area appeared unchanged. The median distance to the hospital among THV patients was counterbalanced by a decreased distance for spine patients pursing IPVs (p < 0.001), with no significant change to case volume. There was no change in distance to the hospital among cranial patients. For both cranial and spine patients, surgical conversion was more likely among those who lived a great distance from the hospital if their initial encounter was an IPV (p = 0.007 and < 0.001, respectively). However, there was no relationship between distance from the hospital and surgical conversion among THV patients (p = 0.565). The availability of THVs did not significantly affect follow-up time (p = 0.837). For new patients at IPVs, there was no difference in time to the operating room between cranial and spine cases; for new patients at THVs, however, time to the operating room was significantly faster for cranial cases than for spine cases (p = 0.0018).

CONCLUSIONS: Compared to IPVs, THVs lead to decreased surgical conversion for cranial patients but not spine patients. THVs do not appear to increase the catchment area. For patients who live far from the hospital, an IPV is associated with surgical conversion. Surgical conversion is faster following cranial THVs than after spine THVs. THVs did not increase the duration of follow-up.

PMID:37060309 | DOI:10.3171/2023.2.JNS221477

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