Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery

The future of health care service in orthopedic practice: telemedicine or in-person visits?


      The objective of this study was to assess patient satisfaction and preference for telemedicine vs. in-person visits for outpatient shoulder and elbow musculoskeletal consultation during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and in the future.


      Patients who had telemedicine visits for shoulder and elbow musculoskeletal complaints at a single institution from March through June 2020 were invited to respond to a post-visit survey. The survey included a standardized questionnaire that focused on the patient’s satisfaction with the telemedicine visits during the pandemic and preference for using the telemedicine platform in the future, following the pandemic. Additional details regarding their virtual visits (severity of medical condition, as well as previous virtual or emergency department visits) were also obtained. Data regarding patient demographic characteristics and visit details (primary diagnosis, type of visit, length of visit, and treating physician) were extracted from the electronic medical records.


      In total, 153 patients participated in the study. Overall, high satisfaction scores regarding the telemedicine visits were noted: 91% of patients reported that their concerns were adequately addressed, 89% would recommend telemedicine to a friend, and 94% stated that they would use the telemedicine platform again in the presence of a situation similar to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the majority of patients (76%) reported a preference for in-person visits for the same musculoskeletal complaint if it were not for COVID-19. A telemedicine visit duration > 10 minutes and a first-time telemedicine visit correlated with higher satisfaction rates (P = .037 and P = .001, respectively).


      COVID-19 has provided a boost to the use of our telemedicine platform, with a high satisfaction rate among patients with shoulder and elbow musculoskeletal complaints, largely owing to safety reasons and limited access to in-person doctor visits. However, a considerable number of patients would have preferred in-person visits for similar health complaints if there were no pandemic. Further research on optimizing the selection of patients for telemedicine visits and addressing their expectations and concerns regarding their visits will improve patients’ preference for future telemedicine visits.

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