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Telemedicine saves chronic pain patients time, money

New York – Patients who saw a pain medicine specialist via telemedicine saved time and money and were highly satisfied with their experience, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, say researchers. The study, presented at the recent ANESTHESIOLOGY 2020 annual meeting, verified that many chronic pain patients are confident they will receive good care via telemedicine while avoiding lengthy commutes and time in traffic.

“This era of contactless interactions and social distancing has really accelerated the adoption of telemedicine, but even before the pandemic, patient satisfaction was consistently high,” said study lead author Laleh Jalilian from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the US. According to the researchers, patients who are being evaluated for new conditions may be better off having office visits initially.

“But once patients establish a relationship with providers, follow-up visits can occur efficiently with telemedicine, while maintaining patient rapport and quality outcomes. We believe 50 per cent of our visits could be conducted via telemedicine,” Jalilian said. In the study, the researchers offered patients the choice of an in-office or telemedicine visit via secure video meetings or telephone calls: 1,398 patients chose telemedicine and were seen via 2,948 virtual appointments over a period of seven months.

Researchers determined that patients who opted for virtual visits avoided a median roundtrip driving distance of 26 miles and saved a median 69 minutes in traffic per trip, and a median of $22 on gas and parking per visit. They also saved a median of $156 over the course of a median of three visits by avoiding the driving time and parking costs. Of the 327 patients who completed surveys, 92 per cent said they were satisfied with their experience.

The researchers said that for the adoption of telemedicine to be sustainable for pain clinic practices, policymakers should consider expanding reimbursement to encourage its use and create payment models that take into account the additional work required to offer telemedicine visits. “Now that telemedicine is more widespread, it may become a valued part of care delivery in chronic pain practices,” said Jalilian. “We hope it will encourage policymakers and insurance providers to continue to support these platforms and inspire more innovation in this developing field of research and patient care,” the study authors wrote.

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