September 23, 2015
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Telehealth can improve access to care, decrease costs

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Telehealth, which eliminates much of the need for in-person appointments, has the potential to improve access to care and decrease costs associated with patient travel, according to a research letter in JAMA Surgery.

Researchers selected a group of veterans undergoing minor surgeries amenable to postoperative telehealth evaluations at three sequential visits: telephone, in-person and video.

Visits were evaluated by four domains, including general recovery, follow-up needs, wound care needs and complications.

Thirty-five veterans agreed to participate and 23 veterans completed all three visits. Patients were mostly male (96%) and white (70%) with a mean age of 58 years.

Eleven of the 23 veterans were discharged on the day of their operation.

For general recovery and follow-up needs there was 100% agreement for all types of patients.

Agreement for wound needs and complications was 96%; there was a possible infection reported during a telephone call that was not present during the in-person or video visit.

One patient had a wound infection that was detected during telephone and video visits and confirmed at the in-person visit.

There were no situations where researchers failed to detect a wound or postoperative complications by telephone or video.

A telehealth visit was preferred by 69% of veterans. Veterans who preferred a telephone visit also favored a video visit to an in-person visit, and those that favored a video visit also chose a telephone visit to an in-person one, according to researchers. – by Abigail Sutton

Disclosure: The researchers reported no relevant financial disclosures.