Patient and Provider Perspectives on Telemedicine use in Canadian Gastroenterology Clinics during the COVID-19 pandemic: A Survey study

Author(s): Marcel Tomaszewski, Shirley X. Jiang, Hyun Jae Kim, Billy Zhao, Eric Lam, Robert Enns, Brian Bressler, Sarvee Moosavi

Background: Telemedicine has revolutionized access to medical care. This was particularly palpable during the COVID pandemic and within gastroenterology. Telehealth can improve access to patients remotely, and lead to high patient and clinician satisfaction. However, questions remain surrounding patient selection and provider considerations. We conducted a Canadian study to examine patient and provider preferences and experiences in telehealth.

Methods: An anonymous online survey was conducted amongst patients of an urban gastroenterology practice, as well as Canadian gastroenterologists, evaluating experiences and preferences in utility of telemedicine.

Results: Of 1236 patients contacted, 181 (15%) respondents were aged 18-89, 60% were female, and 58% had inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Patient satisfaction with telehealth was high across all characteristics. Patients used both phone calls (61%) and video/audio applications (50%); higher use of phone calls was associated with older age (p=0.02). Patients living more than 30km from clinic and with IBD were more likely to prefer telehealth visits (p<0.01). Most providers (96%) and patients (96%) believed that telehealth use should continue for certain patients or follow up visits after the pandemic. Of 100 providers contacted, 25 respondents reported using phone calls (96%) and video/audio applications (44%). Providers perceived follow up of benign endoscopic pathology (96%) and general follow up visits (92%) to be most suitable for telehealth.

Conclusion: Canadian gastroenterology providers and patients appreciate telehealth and favor continued use after the pandemic. Consideration of patient factors such as age, distance, health issue, and follow up status can further optimize ongoing telehealth options.

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