In addition to time, patients can also save money on healthcare when a telemedicine option is available. In a recent study conducted by Dr. Essig’s group, rural patients who participated in the otolaryngology telemedicine program saved close to $200 per encounter (including travels costs and lost wages) (unpublished data). Because many patients required multiple visits, this savings increased throughout the year.
Michael A. Keefe, MD, a facial plastic and reconstructive head and neck surgeon at Sharp Rees Stealy Medical Group, said that patients find virtual visits extremely convenient because he can use telemedicine to manage them postoperatively almost entirely, using absorbable suture and Dermabond after skin surgery and for wound care management. “It allows for closer follow-up of postoperative sites and getting the best results,” he said. “The physician can detect an issue with wound healing and the patient can send a photo if they have a concern, allowing for much more rapid and appropriate management, rather than wait[ing] for an appointment to assess the problem—which may advance the issue,” Dr. Keefe said.
P. Daniel Knott, MD, an associate professor of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery and director of facial plastic and aesthetic surgery in the department of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), said otolaryngologists can use remote video examinations to make sure a patient is appropriate for a physician’s expertise. Otherwise, they may have to rely on someone else’s opinion of a patient’s condition.