The University of Colorado Virtual Physical Examination for Spine Surgeons: A Preliminary Study

This article was originally published here

Orthopedics. 2021 Dec 2:1-4. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20211124-09. Online ahead of print.


As coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) reached pandemic status, in-person orthopedic clinics across the United States were forced to close as many states adopted stay-at-home orders. Previously, the use of telemedicine in orthopedic practices was minimal for a variety of reasons, one being the inability to perform a physical examination in a specialty reliant on direct patient contact for diagnosis and treatment. A prospective cohort of 52 patients consented to participate in a novel virtual physical examination protocol during routine telemedicine visits at a large, tertiary orthopedic spine practice. Participants were asked to perform a series of carefully designed physical maneuvers using readily available household objects to allow their provider to better assess sensory and motor function in the telemedicine setting. Patients were then asked to complete a short satisfaction survey. In total, 52 patients completed the physical examination and survey. Males and females were distributed evenly among the cohort at 50%. The mean age was 52.1±15.5 years. The average score for ease of understanding the examination (1=easiest, 5=hardest) was 1.1, while the average score for ease of performance was 1.5. Most participants (97.56%) felt their provider was better able to understand their condition using the virtual examination findings. This study highlights the utility of a virtual physical examination for assessment of spine patients in the telemedicine setting. Furthermore, this study illustrates the ease with which such an examination can be implemented and performed to improve patient evaluation and satisfaction. [Orthopedics. 202x;4x(x):xx-xx.].

PMID:34846242 | DOI:10.3928/01477447-20211124-09