Could Telehealth Replace Post-op Visits to the Surgeon's Office?
Study finds most patients satisfied with a phone call follow-up 2 weeks after outpatient surgery.
Published: October 14, 2013
Can telehealth encounters safely substitute for routine post-operative office visits? Yes, according to the results of a 10-month study in September's Journal of the American Medical Association.
Instead of returning to their surgeons' offices for a follow-up visit, study patients who underwent elective open hernia repair or laparoscopic cholecystectomy at a VA hospital were called 2 weeks after surgery by a physician assistant and assessed using a scripted template. Assessment variables included overall health, pain, fever, incision appearance, activity level and any patient concerns.
If the telephone assessment revealed no signs of infection and a return to baseline activities, the patient was discharged from follow-up. Patients who preferred a clinic visit were seen accordingly.
About three-fourths (78%) of the 141 prospective telehealth patients were contacted. Of those 63 hernia patients and 19 cholecystectomy patients accepted telehealth as the sole means of follow-up. Complications in the telehealth patients were zero for cholecystectomy and 4.8% (3) for herniorrhaphy. Nearly all patients expressed great satisfaction with the telephone follow-up method, according to the study.
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