Background During the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person rheumatology was largely replaced by telemedicine to ensure the safety of both patients and providers. The increased pressure on the healthcare system amidst the pandemic that created a soaring number of patients has pressed an effective supplementary healthcare format for both rheumatology and other specialties. However, it remains unclear whether telemedicine, in the commonly used video-conference format, can serve as a feasible alternative to conventional in-person clinical visits while achieving comparable patient/provider satisfaction and maintaining long-term quality of care. The objective of this study was to evaluate the patient and provider experience with video-conference based virtual care thus provide further information on the prospective use of telemedicine in rheumatology practice.
Methods April-June 2020 we disseminated a seven-item questionnaire to patients with rheumatic diseases who recently attended telemedicine encounters in a video-conference format to evaluate their satisfaction and experience with the encounter. Simultaneously, we surveyed providers who recently conducted virtual care with a similar seven-item questionnaire to evaluate provider attitude towards the virtual care.
Results A total of 100 patients and 17 care providers responded to the survey. Of the 100 patients surveyed, 84 (84%) reported high levels of satisfaction; 86 (86%) felt comfortable with the video-conference format and 77 (77%) expressed willingness to use telemedicine in the future; 92 (92%) acknowledged that physicians were able to satisfactorily address the issues and concerns that prompted the visit, and 57 (57%) considered the experiences very similar to the in-person clinical visits. However, of the 17 care providers surveyed, only 3 (18%) expressed satisfaction with telemedicine while 14 (82%) considered telemedicine visit worse than conventional in-person clinical visits.
Conclusions Our cohort showed high rate of patient satisfaction with telemedicine healthcare. However, the relatively low healthcare provider satisfaction rate raises concern as to whether telemedicine constitutes a satisfactory alternative to conventional in-person care. Additional researches are required to investigate the feasibility of telemedicine in long-term disease activity evaluation and patient outcome measurement.
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