World Neurosurg. 2021 Mar 20:S1878-8750(21)00440-X. doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2021.03.070. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Global use of telemedicine has increased in leaps and bounds during this COVID-19 pandemic to bridge the gap in existing healthcare services. Intercontinental trends in neurosurgeons’ perception and practices of telemedicine have been sparingly reported.
METHODOLOGY: We conducted an online anonymized and validated survey using a structured questionnaire to get an insight into the neurosurgeons’ experience with telemedicine across various continents and rated its usefulness on a 5-point Likert scale.
RESULTS: We received 286 responses across five continents. There was a trend to support a major paradigm shift favoring teleconsultations during this pandemic in respondents from North America (p=0.06). Signed prescriptions were emailed along with video-based teleconsultations preferentially in Europe and North America. In comparison, audio- or text-based teleconsults along with unsigned prescriptions were prevalent in Asia and Africa (p=0.0005). Acceptability and perceived usefulness for telemedicine during this pandemic was similar across the globe, irrespective of the neurosurgeons’ experience (mean satisfaction score 3.72+/-1.09; p=0.62). Majority of neurosurgeons from Asia and South America complained of difficulties during teleconsultations owing to lack of appropriate infrastructure, internet connectivity/ prescription related issues, and potential risk of litigation (p=0.0005). Approximately 46% of neurosurgeons, especially from Europe and North America, felt that telemedicine could play a vital role in clinical practice even after the subsidence of this pandemic (mean satisfaction score 3.26+/-1.16; p=0.007).
CONCLUSIONS: Telemedicine in neurosurgery is a viable alternative to physical outpatient services during this pandemic and could potentially play a vital role in the post-pandemic phase as well.