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Could Telehealth Technology Help Post-Surgery Patients?

By Vera Gruessner

- Telemedicine services are popping up in every direction of the medical sphere from pediatrics and geriatrics to diabetes management, chronic condition monitoring, and post-surgery follow-up. The use of telehealth technology is becoming a mainstay in the healthcare industry, especially as more state legislators begin to develop regulations and policies for properly reimbursing doctors who use telehealth technology.

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Fox News reported that patients may now see more benefits from telehealth technology especially when it comes to a follow-up after discharge from a surgery. Using phone or other video-based tools to communicate with the doctor may become a more popular method of follow-up care.

The research study based on the use of telemedicine services with the surgical space was published in the JAMA Surgery journal. The researchers collected data from 23 veterans over the course of several months last year.

The patients had received minor surgery that required only a one-night stay at the hospital. Afterward, there were three options for follow-up care: (1) a phone call with the doctor, (2) a video-based virtual visit, and (3) an in-person visit with the physician.

Most patients seem to prefer these type of virtual care visits after a surgical discharge. This shows that patient engagement could be garnered through the use of telehealth technology.

“These kinds of methods are really important in the climate we're in now,” lead author Dr. Michael Vella, of Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, told the news source. “So I think anything you can do to save money, see more patients and improve access to care is really important.”

Additionally, as more patients begin using telemedicine services and forego the in-person visit, traveling long distances for healthcare access will no longer be a necessity. Additionally, no infections were missed with the use of telehealth technology when patients discharged after a surgery received virtual follow-up care.

“The veterans were very good at describing their wounds,” Vella continued. “There was one patient who thought they were having problems, we brought them into clinic and there was an infection.”

Nonetheless, this particular study was relatively small and this does not truly show whether any health issues would be missed with the use of telehealth technology post-surgery. Additionally, this would not be the right research to compare more complex operations among patients.

More studies will need to be completed before a more formal conclusion can be drawn from the use of telehealth technology among surgical care. Also, not all patients will prefer using telemedicine services and some physicians may suggest their patients to come into the office for a more formal and thorough exam.

“There will be patients who want to be seen, be reassured and want a doctor to check something out,” Wren, a professor of surgery at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System in California, told the news source. “There is a subset of patient that it's not going to be appropriate for, but I think it's a great alternative for the vast majority of patients.”


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