Application of telemedicine video visits in a maternal-fetal medicine practice at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic

      BACKGROUND

      Telemedicine in obstetrics has mostly been described in the rural areas that have limited access to subspecialties. During the COVID-19 pandemic, health systems rapidly expanded telemedicine services for urgent and nonurgent healthcare delivery, even in urban settings. The New York University health system implemented a prompt systemwide expansion of video-enabled telemedicine visits, increasing telemedicine to >8000 visits daily within 6 weeks of the beginning of the pandemic. There are limited studies that explore patient and provider satisfaction of telemedicine visits in obstetrical patients during the COVID-19 epidemic, particularly in the United States.

      OBJECTIVE

      This study aimed to evaluate both the patients’ and the providers’ satisfaction with the administration of maternal-fetal medicine services through telemedicine and to identify the factors that drive the patients’ desire for future obstetrical telemedicine services.

      STUDY DESIGN

      A cross-sectional survey was administered to patients who completed a telemedicine video visit with the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at the New York University Langone Hospital—Long Island from March 19, 2020, to May 26, 2020. A 10-question survey assessing the patients’ digital experience and desire for future use was either administered by telephone or self-administered by the patients via a link after obtaining verbal consent. The survey responses were scored from 1—strongly disagree to 5—strongly agree. We analyzed the demographics and survey responses of the patients who agreed to vs those who answered neutral or disagree to the question “I would like telehealth to be an option for future obstetric visits.” The providers also answered a similar 10-question survey. The median scores were compared using appropriate tests. A P value of <.05 was considered significant.

      RESULTS

      A total of 253 patients participated in 433 telemedicine visits, and 165 patients completed the survey, resulting in a 65% survey response rate. Overall, there were high rates of patient satisfaction in all areas assessed. Those who desired future telemedicine had significantly greater agreeability that they were able to see and hear their provider easily (5 [4.5, 5] vs 5 [4, 5]; P=.014) and that the lack of physical activity was not an issue (5 [4, 5] vs 5 [4, 5]; P=.032). They were also more likely to agree that the telemedicine visits were as good as in-person visits (4 [3, 5] vs 3 [2, 3]; P<.001) and that telehealth made it easier for them to see doctors or specialists (5 [4, 5] vs 3 [2, 3]; P<.001). The patients seeking consults for poor obstetrical history were more likely to desire future telemedicine compared with other visit types (19 (90%) vs 2 (10%); P=.05). Provider survey responses also demonstrated high levels of satisfaction, with 83% agreeing that they would like telemedicine to be an option for future obstetrical visits.

      CONCLUSION

      We demonstrated that maternal-fetal medicine obstetrical patients and providers were highly satisfied with the implementation of telemedicine during the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and a majority of them desire telemedicine as an option for future visits. A patient's desire for future telemedicine visits was significantly affected by their digital experience, the perception of a lack of need for physical contact, perceived time saved on travel, and access to healthcare providers. Health systems need to continue to improve healthcare delivery and invest in innovative solutions to conduct physical examinations remotely.

      Key words

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