Analysis of the specialist outpatient visits potentially deliverable via telehealth: a cross-sectional study
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Department of Public Health Sciences, University of Turin, Italy
University of Turin, Italy
Publication date: 2023-04-27
Popul. Med. 2023;5(Supplement):A581
Background and Objective: Telemedicine is a useful tool to deliver care to patients who have difficulties to reach healthcare facilities. During the recent COVID-19 pandemic period, the use of telemedicine increased exponentially. However, the use of this tool could be further incremented. The aim of this study was to analyze the prevalence of specialist outpatient visits currently delivered in presence that can be delivered via telemedicine, and the potential predictors of the willingness of the patients to use this tool. Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted in outpatient facilities located in Piedmont, Italy. Patients referred to Neurology, Diabetology/Endocrinology, and Pediatrics were included in the study. A 40-items survey was administered by trained researchers to the patients who were waiting for the visits. Characteristics of the visits (“first visit” or “follow-up visit”, use of medical devices) were also retrieved. Specific criteria were defined to select the visits that could be potentially delivered in telemedicine. Results: A total of 287 patients were included (115 pediatrics, 124 diabetology/endocrinology, 48 neurology). The percentage of specialist outpatient visits that could be provided via telemedicine was 2.6% for pediatric visits and 5.2% for other specialties. When considering deliverable in telemedicine also the visits in which medical devices were used, the percentages reached 38.7% overall. In 51.9% of cases, the assisted person declared the willingness to do the visit via telemedicine. Potential predictors of this willingness were the educational level and the age of the person. Conclusions: Patients demonstrated the willingness to use telemedicine for specialist outpatient visits. However, to date it is difficult to increase the number of visits that can be provided remotely. There is the need of investments in new technologies, and to raise awareness among the most hesitant categories of persons about the use of this service.