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Year : 2023  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 82-88

The perspectives of patients and spine surgeons on the effectiveness and reliability of telemedicine consultations for spine ailments—A glimpse at the Indian scenario

Department of Spine Surgery, Ganga Medical Center and Hospital, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Ajoy P Shetty
Department of Spine Surgery, Ganga Medical Center and Hospital, 313 Mettupalayam Road, Coimbatore 641 043, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/isj.isj_104_21

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Introduction: In view of the ongoing pandemic, telemedicine has been increasingly adopted worldwide. This study was planned to evaluate the effectiveness of telemedicine for patients with spine ailments, and to assess the satisfaction rates and concerns of spine surgeons and patients regarding telemedicine consultations in the Indian scenario. Materials and Methods: Telemedicine appointments for spine patients were conducted through “Zoom Healthcare” online platform between April and December 2020 in a tertiary-care spine center. Questionnaires (including nine and five questions, respectively) were filled by patients and doctors after their consultations. The questionnaire included questions on overall satisfaction, time consumption, ease of setting-up appointment, ease of communication, influence on decision-making, and patient preference. Results: Overall, 70.1%, 23.6%, and 6.3% of patients replied that they were “very satisfied,” “satisfied,” and dissatisfied,” respectively, with their telemedicine appointments. Among postoperative follow-up patients, 69%, 30.2%, and 0.8% expressed that they were “very satisfied,” “satisfied,” and dissatisfied,” respectively, with telemedicine. At the end of session, 88.5% patients opined that they would still prefer a telemedicine appointment for the completed consultation, and 93.4% were happy to use telemedicine for future visits. In all, 100%, 94.1%, and 75% of patients, who belonged to other countries, other cities, and same city, respectively, were satisfied or very satisfied from telemedicine consultations. The doctor’s responses were “very satisfied” or “satisfied” on 96.5% of occasions overall. The doctors required approximately 24.1 min for conducting a telemedicine appointment. Three major concerns for doctors included difficulty in procuring good-quality magnetic resonance imaging (17%), problems with connectivity (14.6%), and difficulty in eliciting certain physical findings (13.2%). Conclusion: Telemedicine is an effective alternative to in-person visits for the assessment of patients with spine ailments. Patients belonging to more distant geographic locations (as compared with local residents) and those requiring postoperative follow-ups can be significantly benefited by this modality.

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