American Society of Reproductive Medicine Scientific Congress & Expo

American Society of Reproductive Medicine Scientific Congress & Expo

Source:

Dilday EA, et al. Abstract O-77. Presented at: ASRM Scientific Congress & Expo; Oct. 17-20, 2021; Baltimore (hybrid meeting).

Disclosures: Anderson and Dilday report no relevant financial disclosures.
October 20, 2021
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Providers, patients alike embrace telehealth for fertility services

Source:

Dilday EA, et al. Abstract O-77. Presented at: ASRM Scientific Congress & Expo; Oct. 17-20, 2021; Baltimore (hybrid meeting).

Disclosures: Anderson and Dilday report no relevant financial disclosures.
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A large survey of reproductive endocrinology and infertility clinics in the United States showed that many were satisfied with telehealth services and plan to continue offering them after the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

A separate survey of patients also showed widespread satisfaction with the technology.

Dilday EA, et al. Abstract O-77. Presented at: ASRM Scientific Congress & Expo; Oct. 17-20, 2021; Baltimore (hybrid meeting).
Dilday EA, et al. Abstract O-77. Presented at: ASRM Scientific Congress & Expo; Oct. 17-20, 2021; Baltimore (hybrid meeting).

Results from both surveys were presented at the ASRM Scientific Congress & Expo.

A boost in telehealth use

According to the CDC, telehealth use has increased significantly in a short period. Less than half of health centers in the U.S. (43%) were capable of providing it before the pandemic, compared with 95% in 2020.

“Telehealth was underutilized in reproductive endocrinology and infertility clinics until the pandemic,” Elizabeth A. Dilday, MD, a third-year clinical fellow at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, told Healio. “During the pandemic, there was really no other option for fertility patients and providers alike to keep things moving forward and keep people moving toward their goals.”

To get a clearer sense of how the technology was being used and whether providers of reproductive endocrinology and infertility services were satisfied with it, Dilday and colleagues surveyed 330 clinics in the U.S. that were members of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. Of those, 38 responded (11.5%) — located mostly in California, New York and Illinois, but also in 14 other states. They were a mixture of private (59.5%), university-affiliated (32.4%) and health system-based clinics (8.11%).

The researchers found that few clinics (34.2%) offered telehealth to patients before the pandemic — in line with the CDC data — but all 38 clinics now rely on it. Zoom was the favored platform (58.6%), followed by telephone or landline (41.4%). Telehealth was used for both new patient consultations (94.7%) and return visits (92.1%).

Elizabeth A. Dilday

“We went from a place where a third of clinics surveyed were using telehealth to a place, very quickly, where all of the providers surveyed are now using telehealth, and at one point during the pandemic, 75% of their visits were done that way,” Dilday said.

Results showed that approximately 90% of the clinics anticipated that they will offer telehealth visits after the pandemic, and nearly three-quarters of providers were satisfied with telehealth overall. However, 63.2% of clinics anticipated fewer telehealth visits after the pandemic because of logistics (28.6%) and patient preferences (25.7%). Some clinics also expressed concerns about insurance reimbursement once the pandemic ends, according to Dilday.

During the presentation, Dilday noted that there are no data published on the use of telehealth in reproductive endocrinology and infertility practices. The researchers are expanding the survey to include more clinics and are looking to eventually publish the findings.

Patients appreciate telehealth, too

A separate survey of patients who had telehealth visits at the Washington University Fertility and Reproductive Medicine Center showed widespread appreciation for virtual visits.

In an interview with Healio, Kelsey L. Anderson, MD, a second-year clinical fellow at Washington University in St. Louis, said the Midwest tertiary academic facility has a large referral base “for hundreds of miles in either direction,” and they began employing telehealth before the pandemic. At the time, however, this was a challenge because of restrictions on insurance and reimbursement.

“With the COVID pandemic, and the fact that we were able to provide telemedicine services, our first thought was, ‘OK, this is great, but are patients going to like it? Do they prefer it? Do they not prefer it?’ We were happy to see that the majority of patients preferred it on all levels that we looked at,” Anderson said in the interview.

Anderson and colleagues reached out to 352 patients — 101 (28.7%) of whom completed the survey —and found that telehealth not only increased access to care for 88% of patients, but it also saved travel time for 96%. The mean distance from the clinic was 52 miles, Anderson said.

According to the researchers, 93% of respondents said they would use telemedicine again and were satisfied with virtual visits.

Notably, there was no significant difference between patients who lived farther away from the clinic and those who lived closer in their satisfaction with telehealth and their preference for using it again — suggesting that patients were satisfied with virtual visits for reasons other than the fact that they were spared from travel.

Kelsey L. Anderson

“There are all sorts of benefits that one can gain from this, which is why we’ve really embraced telemedicine and use it at our office,” Anderson said. “It’s easy, it’s convenient, you can take notes while you’re doing it because you’re at your computer anyway, and you can look something up because you’re already connected to the internet. There are more benefits than just the time saving, especially as everything gets more technologically advanced. I believe in telemedicine after this survey.”

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