HumanInsight Telemedicine for Retinal Disease During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Survey of the Patient Perspective
Ophthalmol Ther. 2022 Aug 3. doi: 10.1007/s40123-022-00555-2. Online ahead of print.
INTRODUCTION: Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine has emerged as a safe and cost-effective alternative to traditional ophthalmology clinic visits. This study evaluated patient attitudes towards telemedicine at a full-service, retina-only practice to identify areas for growth in implementation.
METHODS: A survey was distributed to established patients at University Retina and Macula Associates following the completion of a telemedicine encounter in July 2021. On a 5-point Likert scale, patients compared telemedicine to in-person visits for six domains: ability to ease COVID-related anxiety, efficiency, patient education, quality of care, fulfillment of personal needs, and convenience. Pearson's χ2 and Fisher's exact test were used to assess correlations between demographic factors and patient attitudes or preference towards telemedicine.
RESULTS: Among 103 respondents, two-thirds (68.7%) preferred in-person compared to telemedicine encounters. Overall, patients had a neutral attitude towards telemedicine [mean Likert rating (SD) = 3.11/5 ± 0.82]. Questions assessing "patient education" and "telemedicine efficiency" received the greatest proportion of positive and negative responses, respectively. Positive attitudes were more frequent among patients with prior telemedicine experience (87.5%) compared to never-users (71.8%; p = 0.046). Patients ≥ 75 years old tended to negatively assess telemedicine regarding reduction of COVID-19-related anxiety, efficiency, patient education, and physician facetime (p < 0.05 for all). A positive but non-significant trend was observed between higher education level and positive attitude towards telemedicine (p = 0.18). Telehealth never-users more often negatively rated receiving adequate facetime with the physician virtually (54.7%) compared to prior users (25.6%; p = 0.004). Younger age, prior history of telemedicine use, and higher education level were associated with increased preference for telemedicine (p < 0.05 for all).
CONCLUSION: Our findings revealed hesitance remains among patients towards adoption of telemedicine. Targeting age-, experience-, and education-related barriers will be invaluable for increasing acceptance of this healthcare delivery model.
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