Use of Telemedicine in Chronic Pain Consultation: A Pilot Study

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Abstract

Objectives

Telemedicine has been used extensively in various settings, including monitoring patient treatment response and counseling. However, there are few data on the application of telemedicine to chronic pain patients. The present study was the first pilot project to determine whether telemedicine technology for chronic pain consultation was feasible, cost-saving, and satisfactory to patients and pain physicians.

Methods

A prospective pilot study was conducted on chronic pain patients requiring follow-up consultations using telemedicine technology. Patients were interviewed by phone following the consultation.

Results

Eleven telemedicine anesthesia consultations involving eight patients (age 42±9 years; six men, two women) were performed. All were follow-up consultations. The average distance from patients' home to the clinic was 314±170 km. The reasons for consultation were for update of patient progress (10/11), medication change (6/11), and counseling (3/11). The time to complete the consultation was 24.5±9.5 minutes. The data for the time and the cost that the patient spent on the consultation are presented as median and 25% to 75% interquartile range. Patients having telemedicine consultations spent 0.9 hours (0.83–1) and Canadian $3 ($2–4) versus an estimate of 8 hours (6–8) and Canadian $80 ($46–260) for a conventional consultation (both P<0.005). Telemedicine consultation was found to be highly satisfactory to the patient and the consulting and attending anesthesiologists.

Conclusions

This pilot study indicates that telemedicine follow-up consultations for chronic pain patients are feasible and cost-saving. Patients and anesthesiologists were highly satisfied with telemedicine consultation. Patients reported a significant saving in time and cost compared with a conventional consultation.

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