A study published in the December issue of the Annals of Surgery used data from Stony Brook Medicine’s Bariatric and Metabolic Weight Loss Center to show that follow-up telehealth visits are highly effective during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Researchers wanted to find out how full-time telemedicine adoption impacted patient visits and attendance in a comprehensive metabolic and weight loss center. The disruption of elective surgeries in March 2020 and initiation of online video appointments at the clinic provided a unique opportunity to assess the impact of telehealth on patients.
“Embracing telemedicine has been extremely effective for our practice and certainly can be for other practices during this pandemic,” says Aurora D. Pryor, MD, lead author on the paper, Director of the Bariatric and Metabolic Weight Loss Center, and Professor of Surgery at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.
Dr. Pryor said that since in-person care isn’t necessary for certain aspects of patient care and follow-up at the clinic, telemedicine became an effective alternative.
“...telemedicine saves time and reduces exposure risks for patients and providers alike,” she added.
According to a press release published by Stony Brook Medicine, the study, titled “The Impact of Telemedicine Adoption on a Multidisciplinary Bariatric Surgery Practice During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” recorded patient volume categorized as pre-telehealth and post-telehealth – periods of a similar time range from February to April 2020. Post-telehealth is when the practice incorporated telehealth services according to pandemic guidelines.
After telehealth implementation, new visits for surgeons decreased by 75%, and follow-ups surgical visits decreased by 55%. However, during telehealth there was a 27% increase for other non-surgical practitioners at the practice, an indication, according to the report, that patients have been able to continue their care to a high degree post-surgery or before elective surgery.
Dr. Pryor said that the follow-up data is important since it can help other clinics in their overall care of patients during the pandemic – especially since elective surgical practices have been severely impacted. This also provides a template for the adoption of telehealth in a post-pandemic world at similar practices.