The study was designed as a survey. The researchers conducted a mixed-methods study with patients who received spine care via telemedicine. The researchers wanted to know what characteristics influence this modality’s use and evaluation. Telemedicine was already part of routine spine care. Its long-term success will hinge on improving its safety, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness and gaining a better understanding of how patients value its benefits and limitations. Between March and September 2020, the researchers used a clinical registry to identify spine patients seen remotely by doctors at the tertiary academic medical center. The researchers sent out an online survey to patients asking about their telemedicine experiences. The researchers ran statistical analyses on Likert-scale questions as well as a thematic analysis on free-form responses. Abstracted and evaluated sociodemographic data. The researchers looked at 139 patient questionnaires in total. Both in-person and telemedicine visits had high levels of patient-rated care and experience; however, in-person visits were considerably higher in both categories (9.3/10 vs. 8.7/10 for patient-rated care, P<0.001; 9.0/10 vs. 8.4/10 for patient-rated experience, p=0.006). There was a preference for in-person first-time visits, which did not hold for follow-up appointments. Perceptions of telemedicine were influenced by both patient and clinician factors. Thematic analysis of 113 patients’ free-form replies (81%) yielded pleasant, negative, and introspective themes, each of which was further contextualized by subthemes. Across all socio-demographic categories, respondents and nonresponders were not significantly different. The quantitative and qualitative findings provide insight into the patient experience with telemedicine in spine care. In-person visits were preferred over phone calls, especially for new patient evaluations. For follow-up care, this preference was not maintained. Patients recognized the advantages of telemedicine and reflected on how well it worked in conjunction with in-person care. These findings could help to influence future best practices for improving access and patient satisfaction.
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