Pediatric Otolaryngology Telemedicine Amid a Pandemic and Beyond

April 17, 2022

According to a recently published study, telemedicine was equally well received by patients compared to traditional in-person assessments in the pediatric otolaryngology field. These findings suggest that virtual care is a viable post-pandemic paradigm shift. 

UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology researchers Jennifer McCoy, Amber Shaffer, and faculty member Joseph Dohar, MD, published “Pediatric Otolaryngology Telemedicine Amid a Pandemic – And Beyond” in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology

Nearly all health care providers had to shift to telemedicine in some form during the COVID-19 pandemic. As health systems return to traditional practice, it is important to create a research and policy agenda using the changes brought on by the pandemic to create a better health care system. Authors aimed to assess satisfaction of otolaryngology outpatient visits during the pandemic. 

Researchers performed a prospective survey study on caregivers of all patients aged 0–26 years old seen in the Division from February to April 2020. Three study groups were identified of the participants: those seen in-person 6 weeks before telemedicine was implemented, those seen with telemedicine in the first 6 weeks it was implemented, and those seen in-person during the telemedicine period in the same time frame. 

All three groups were sent the same satisfaction questions related to their visit if their child was recommended surgery and if the caregiver agreed with the recommendation. 

A total of 176 caregivers completed the survey with 64.2% seen in-person before telemedicine, 33.5% seen by telemedicine, and 2.3% seen in-person during the telemedicine period. Caregivers gave higher responses for the statements “the ability to communicate with the physician” and “the overall outpatient experience” in the pre-telemedicine cohort compared to the telemedicine cohort. There were no significant differences for the other statements on the ability to understand recommendations, courtesy, and knowledge of the physician. 

When surgery was recommended, 98.6% of caregivers agreed with the recommendation, regardless of the cohort. However, when surgery was not recommended, caregivers were 11 times more likely to disagree with the recommendation among both groups. 

Authors concluded that telemedicine was equally well received by patients compared to traditional in-person appointments. 

This is the first otolaryngology-related study regarding the COVID-19 pandemic that combined a medical record review and survey responses from 6 weeks before telemedicine was adopted and 6 weeks during the beginning of the pandemic.

Reference

McCoy JL, Shaffer AD, Dohar JE. Pediatric otolaryngology telemedicine amid a pandemic - And beyond. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2022;153:111014. doi:10.1016/j.ijporl.2021.111014