HumanInsight Telemedicine and Socioeconomics in Orthopaedic Trauma Patients: A Quasi-Experimental Study During the COVID-19 Pandemic
J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2022 Jul 12. doi: 10.5435/JAAOS-D-21-01143. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: Socioeconomic factors may introduce barriers to telemedicine care access. This study examines changes in clinic absenteeism for orthopaedic trauma patients after the introduction of a telemedicine postoperative follow-up option during the COVID-19 pandemic with attention to patient socioeconomic status (SES).
METHODS: Patients (n = 1,060) undergoing surgical treatment of pelvic and extremity trauma were retrospectively assigned to preintervention and postintervention cohorts using a quasi-experimental design. The intervention is the April 2020 introduction of a telemedicine follow-up option for postoperative trauma care. The primary outcome was the missed visit rate (MVR) for postoperative appointments. We used Poisson regression models to estimate the relative change in MVR adjusting for patient age and sex. SES-based subgroup analysis was based on the Area Deprivation Index (ADI) according to home address.
RESULTS: The pre-telemedicine group included 635 patients; the post-telemedicine group included 425 patients. The median MVR in the pre-telemedicine group was 28% (95% confidence interval [CI], 10% to 45%) and 24% (95% CI, 6% to 43%) in the post-telemedicine group. Low SES was associated with a 40% relative increase in MVR (95% CI, 17% to 67%, P < 0.001) compared with patients with high SES. Relative MVR changes between pre-telemedicine and post-telemedicine groups did not reach statistical significance in any socioeconomic strata (low ADI, -6%; 95% CI, -25% to 17%; P = 0.56; medium ADI, -18%; 95% CI, -35% to 2%; P = 0.07; high ADI, -12%; 95% CI, -28% to 7%; P = 0.20).
CONCLUSIONS: Low SES was associated with a higher MVR both before and after the introduction of a telemedicine option. However, no evidence in this cohort demonstrated a change in absenteeism based on SES after the introduction of the telemedicine option. Clinicians should be reassured that there is no evidence that telemedicine introduces additional socioeconomic bias in postoperative orthopaedic trauma care.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: III.
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