Public health

Telehealth helps cardiology patients overcome hospital hesitancy

Cardiology patients fear going to hospital for outpatient appointments during COVID-19 lockdowns and are more comfortable and confident with the option of telehealth assessments, a Victorian study has found.

In a survey conducted during Melbourne’s ‘second wave’ lockdown, patients referred for telehealth cardiology assessments with the  Department of Cardiology, The Alfred Hospital were surveyed about their perceptions of hospital vs telehealth services.

Almost half of the 97 patients surveyed said they had fears about attending a hospital for a face-to-face appointment due to the risk of COVID-19.

Two thirds of patients (65%) said they preferred telehealth appointment, even though most (84%) were referred for investigation of chest pain.

Three quarters of patients (75%) said they were confident with the care provided via telehealth, compared to face-to-face review.

However while almost 40% of patients said they would be reluctant to attend hospital if they felt unwell, more than 80% said they would be confident in undergoing a cardiac procedure in hospital if recommended.

Older patients (aged 70 years and over) were more averse to attending hospital for appointments, whereas patients aged under 60 years were more likely to feel safe to attend hospital for a cardiac procedure.

The clinicians who conducted the survey, led by Dr Jason Bloom, said the reluctance seen in cardiology patients to attend hospital for care was of concern, especially with respect to chest pain. Such hesitancy may be a contributor to the increased symptom-to-balloon times observed in patients with ST-elevation myocardial infarction, they suggested.

“Telehealth is an important measure to ensure ongoing care of outpatients during this time and further public health education is required to encourage patients to seek timely hospital care when unwell,” they concluded in Internal Medical Journal.

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