Pediatric otolaryngology telemedicine amid a pandemic – And beyond

Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2021 Dec 28;153:111014. doi: 10.1016/j.ijporl.2021.111014. Online ahead of print.


INTRODUCTION: The coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic catalyzed an unprecedented redesign and innovative overhaul of health care delivery thrusting from fringe to mainstream virtual care. With a return to conventional practice, we now must create a research and policy agenda using the changes wrought by COVID-19 to help create a better health care system in its aftermath. The purpose of this study was to assess satisfaction of otolaryngology outpatient visits during the pandemic.

METHODS: A prospective survey study was performed on caregivers of all patients ages 0-26 years old seen in the Division of Pediatric Otolaryngology at our large tertiary care children’s hospital from February-April 2020. The three study groups were those seen in-person 6 weeks before telemedicine was implemented (IBTM), those seen in telemedicine during the first 6 weeks (TM) it was implemented at our hospital, and those seen in-person during the telemedicine period (IDTM) in the same timeframe. The survey consisted of satisfaction questions related to their visit, if their child was recommended surgery at the time of the visit, and if the caregiver agreed with the recommendation. A medical record review was also performed.

RESULTS: A total of 176 caregivers completed the survey with 113(64.2%) completing the survey for an IBTM appointment, 59(33.5%) for a TM appointment, and 4(2.3%) for an IDTM appointment. There were 100(56.8%) male patients and 167(94.9%) were white. Families gave a higher response for the statement “The ability to communicate with the physician” (p = .012) and “The overall outpatient experience” (p = .004) in the IBTM cohort compared to the TM group. There were no significant differences for the other statements regarding the ability to understand recommendations, courtesy, and knowledge of the physician. Regardless of group, 98.6% of caregivers agreed with surgical recommendation when surgery was recommended. However, when surgery was not recommended at the appointment, caregivers were 11x more likely to disagree with the surgical recommendations, OR:11.49,95%CI:1.44-91.38,p = .005.

CONCLUSION: We conclude that telemedicine was equally well received by pediatric otolaryngology patients as compared to traditional live assessments, suggesting that virtual care is a viable post-pandemic paradigm change. Satisfaction was rated as “Good” or “Excellent”, however, messaging when surgery is not recommended was less acceptable and must be improved to obtain increased caregivers’ agreement in an era of shared decision making.

PMID:34974276 | DOI:10.1016/j.ijporl.2021.111014