Patient preference for time-saving telehealth postoperative visits after routine surgery in an urban setting

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Abstract

Background.

Focusing on high-value delivery of health care, we describe our implementation of telephone postoperative visits as alternatives to in-person follow-up after routine, low-risk surgery in an urban setting. Our pilot program assessed telephone postoperative visit feasibility as well as patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes.

Methods.

We offered telephone postoperative visits to all clinically eligible, in-state patients scheduled for appropriate low-risk operations. An advanced practitioner conducted the telephone postoperative visit within 2 weeks of the operation and discharged patients from routine follow-up if recovery was satisfactory. We reviewed the medical records to identify encounters and adverse events in the 30-day postoperative period.

Results.

Telephone postoperative visits were opted for by 92/94 (98%) clinically eligible, in-state patients. Most patients cited convenience (55%), travel (34%), and time (22%) as their main motivations. The average patient opting in was 55 ± 16 years old (range 23–88, 8% > 65) and lived 22 ± 26 miles from our clinic (range 0.9–124). Of 50 patients completing telephone postoperative visits, 48 (96%, 2 were not asked) were satisfied with the telephone postoperative visit as their sole postoperative visit, 44 (88%) of whom required no additional follow-up. On average, telephone postoperative visits lasted 8.6 ± 3.9 minutes, compared with the 82.8 ± 33.4 minutes for preintervention, postoperative visit time. Adding travel times, we estimate each patient saved an average of 139–199 minutes or 94–96% of the time they would have spent coming to clinic. No instances of major morbidity or mortality were identified on chart review.

Conclusion.

Many patients find telephone postoperative visits more convenient than in-clinic visits. Moreover, estimates of time saved are compelling. Amid changing regulations and reimbursement, our findings support the growing use of telehealth for postoperative care of routine, low risk operations.

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