Public perceptions and disparities in access to telehealth orthopaedic services in the COVID-19 era

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J Natl Med Assoc. 2021 Apr 1:S0027-9684(21)00033-X. doi: 10.1016/j.jnma.2021.02.007. Online ahead of print.


BACKGROUND: We used online crowdsourcing to explore public perceptions and attitudes towards virtual orthopaedic care, and to identify factors associated with perceived difficulty navigating telehealth services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

METHODS: A modified version of the validated Telemedicine Satisfaction and Usefulness Questionnaire was completed by 816 individuals using crowd-sourcing methods. Multivariable logistic regression modelling was used to determine population characteristics associated with perceived difficulty using telehealth technology.

RESULTS: Most respondents (85%) believed that telehealth visits would be a convenient form of healthcare delivery, and 64% would prefer them over in-person office visits. The majority (92%) agreed that telehealth would save them time, but 81% had concerns regarding the lack of physical contact during a musculoskeletal examination. More respondents would feel comfortable using telehealth for routine follow-up care (81%) compared to initial assessment visits (59%) and first postoperative appointments (60%). Roughly 1 in 15 (7%) expressed difficulty with using telehealth; these respondents were more often unmarried, lower-income, and more medically infirm, and reported greater symptoms of depression. After multivariable adjustment, lower income and poor health were retained as predictors of difficulty with navigating telehealth technology (p = 0.027,p = 0.036, respectively).

CONCLUSION: The majority of the public appears receptive to telehealth for orthopaedic care for both new patient visits and follow-up appointments. The finding that people with multiple chronic conditions and psychosocial needs struggle to engage with telehealth suggests that those who arguably stand to benefit the most from continued care are the ones being unintentionally left out of this digitization boom.

PMID:33814179 | DOI:10.1016/j.jnma.2021.02.007