Implementation of a virtual vascular clinic with point-of-care ultrasound in an integrated health care system

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Abstract

Objective:

Using secured videoconferencing technologies, telemedicine may replace traditional clinic visits, save patients' time and travel, and improve use of limited surgeon and facility resources. We report our initial experience of the remote clinical encounter (RCE) by evaluating vascular surgery patients.

Methods:

In this proof-of-concept pilot study, we conducted telemedicine evaluations of vascular patients at a tertiary care institution from October 2015 to August 2016. Patients were offered synchronous virtual visits from a surgical provider in lieu of an in-person visit. We used Skype for Business (Microsoft, Redmond, Wash) over secured networks for patient-provider interaction, clinical data entry in the Epic electronic medical record (Epic Systems Corporation, Verona, Wisc) for documentation, and established satellite facilities with existing vascular laboratories for imaging and laboratory testing. We evaluated feasibility, demographics, encounter type, and satisfaction of the patient through web-based questionnaires.

Results:

During a 10-month period, 41 women and 14 men with an average age of 57 years (range, 29-79 years) underwent 82 RCEs. There were 43 white (78.1%), 9 black (16.3%), 1 Asian (1.8%), and 2 Middle Eastern (3.6%) patients. Diagnoses included both arterial (aneurysm, carotid, and occlusive disease) and venous (deep venous thrombosis and varicose vein) disease. Among the 82 RCEs, visit types included 15 new patients, 30 postoperative visits, and 37 follow-up visits. Ultrasound imaging was performed in conjunction with the RCE in 74 patients (90.2%). Most patients (57%) had multiple RCEs during the study period. All 55 patients responded to the satisfaction questionnaire; 91% stated that they would highly recommend a virtual physician encounter to a friend or colleague, and all of the respondents found their encounter more convenient than having a traditional office visit. All patients thought that they were able to communicate clearly with the provider, and overall quality responses were overwhelmingly positive.

Conclusions:

Secured virtual visits can be conducted using commercially available hardware and software solutions. Synchronous telemedicine with point-of-care ultrasound is effective in evaluating common vascular conditions. Virtual care may be used for management of patients with chronic vascular disease.

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