Doctor Visits in the Comfort of Your Home

Telehealth consultations can be a safe substitute for follow up visits after certain surgeries

(RxWiki News) What if you could get medical care without leaving your home? Or without wasting time in the waiting room? Telehealth can make it happen with virtual clinic "visits."

Telehealth is a way to consult with a doctor or a physician assistant using today’s communication technologies without leaving the comfort of your living room. But does it actually work?

Telehealth may be a safe and effective way to do follow-up visits with a doctor after surgery, according to a new study.

This study showed that patients who opted for telehealth phone consultations instead of traditional in-person visits after surgery had few complications and were highly satisfied with their experience.

"Ask your doctor about new technologies."

This study was conducted by Kimberly Hwa, MMS, PA-C, and Sherry M. Wren, MD, from the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Health Care System in California.

The aim of this study was to see if consulting a health professional over the telephone could be used as a safe substitute for an in-person clinic visit.

The researchers looked at 115 patients who had open hernia repair and 26 patients who had undergone laparoscopic gall bladder removal.

Typically, patients visit doctors’ clinics for follow-up after surgery. The patients in this study were enrolled in a telehealth post-surgery follow-up program instead.

A physician assistant called patients two weeks after surgery and assessed their condition using a scripted questionnaire.

The questionnaire asked about overall health, if the patient had a fever, and how the patient was returning to normal activities, among others. 

If the patients answers indicated that they were free of infection and recovering normally, the patient was discharged.

Of the 141 patients, 110 were successfully contacted. Of these, 63 hernia repair patients (70.8 percent) and 19 gall bladder removal patients (90.5 percent) agreed to use telehealth as their only means of contact with health professionals.

Only 4.8 percent of the hernia repair patients who chose to use telehealth experienced postoperative complications in the first 30 days after surgery. None of the patients who chose a regular visit after hernia repair had complications.

There were no complications in the telehealth group or the regular visit group among the gall bladder removal patients.

The researchers noted most patients in the telehealth group felt satisfied with the services provided since they didn’t need to drive long distances or go through extended wait times at the clinic.

Overall, the study concluded that telehealth can be used safely and effectively in place of a standard in-person post-surgery doctor's office visit after open hernia repair and laparoscopic gall bladder removal.

The results of this study were published online July 10 in JAMA Surgery.

No specific funding information or conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
July 9, 2013