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Telemedicine as an environmental ally - The social, financial, and environmental impact of virtual care in the otolaryngology clinic

HumanInsight Telemedicine as an environmental ally - The social, financial, and environmental impact of virtual care in the otolaryngology clinic

Am J Otolaryngol. 2023 Jan 20;44(2):103791. doi: 10.1016/j.amjoto.2023.103791. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: Synchronous virtual care rapidly expanded worldwide amid the COVID-19 pandemic to provide remote medical assessment, minimizing contact and disease transmission risk. Despite its benefits, such an abrupt expansion has shed light on the need to address patients' level of satisfaction with this service delivery. The purpose of this study was to investigate patients' satisfaction, travel cost, productivity loss, and CO2 emissions involved with synchronous virtual care and in-person assessments in rhinology and sleep apnea clinics.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: This prospective comparative study included patients managed via virtual care, or in-person clinic visit at St. Joseph Hospital, London, Canada, from December/2020 to April/2021, with rhinology pathologies or sleep apnoea. Patient satisfaction questionnaire (PSQ-18) scores were assessed. The overall scores of respondents were recorded including cost implications.

RESULTS: A total of 329 patients were invited, 28.5 % responded (n = 93). 33 virtual care (age 48 ± 6), and 60 in-person (age 51 ± 19). There was no statistical significance in PSQ-18 scores. However, under a diagnosis-based subgroup analysis, allergic rhinitis patients on virtual care presented a significantly lower PSQ-18 scores on the general satisfaction (3.28 vs. 4.25, p = 0.04). The time spent with the doctor was directly correlated with age for patients seen in-person (r = 0.27; p = 0.037). The estimated loss of productivity for the Virtual care group was CAD 12, patients assessed in-person presented an average loss of productivity about six times higher (CAD 74 ± 40).

CONCLUSIONS: Overall patients' satisfaction did not depend on whether they were seen virtually or in-person. However, time spent with the doctor contributed to higher satisfaction levels, but only among older patients who were seen in person. Nonetheless, allergic rhinitis patients seemed less satisfied with the virtual care option. Virtual care demonstrates economic benefits.

PMID:36706717 | DOI:10.1016/j.amjoto.2023.103791

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