May 30, 2024

Study: Surgeon video consults up since pandemic, but challenges remain

Editor's Note

Need for physical examination, technological limitations, care quality concerns, and malpractice risk topped the list of perceived barriers to employing video visits in surgical care in a study published May 10 in the journal Surgery. This study was reportedly the first to comprehensively survey surgeons on their perception of barriers to video visit use in the surgical care process.

Conducted among surgeons practicing in 6 specialties—general, cardiothoracic, orthopedic, otolaryngology, urology, and "other"—the nationwide survey attracted 170 respondents, 67% of whom indicated their practice lacked motivation for implementing video visits. Additionally, 69% disagreed with using video visits as the sole means for preoperative surgical consultation, even with relevant medical history, labs, and imaging. Nearly 43% cited the need for a physical examination, whereas 58% of surgeons said video visits carried a greater malpractice risk than in-person visits. Other barriers included technological limitations, billing, and care quality concerns. Nevertheless, 41% agreed that video visits could improve outcomes for some patients, and 60% expressed openness to using video visits exclusively for postoperative consultations in uncomplicated surgeries.

Researchers note that video visits have increased since the pandemic, but surgeons may find it hard to build rapport, and privacy remains a concern. Additionally, older and low-income patients may lack access or technological literacy.

However, previous studies found that 95% of patients were satisfied with video visits, and 75% expressed a perceived equivalence in quality to in-person visits. Meanwhile, more than 76% of surgeons were satisfied with video visits, and 85% were confident in retrieving patient health history (85%) through video visits. “We expanded on these promising findings by better defining individual barriers,” researchers conclude. “This study highlights both the benefits and challenges of video visits, a first step toward improving surgical video visits for both surgeons and patients.”

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