GI tract

Telehealth consultations a win-win for endoscopy clinics


The move to telehealth consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic has proved a winner for endoscopy clinics, resulting in high rates of acceptance among patients and endoscopists and also reducing ‘no shows’.

A study of 373 phone consultations held at Austin Health for patients booked for advanced endoscopy and post endoscopy outpatient clinic appointments in April and May 2020 found that patient satisfaction rates were 84.6% and 73.8% respectively.

The satisfaction rates for the phone consultations – as measured by 6 Likert scale questions (6Q score) – were slightly lower than for endoscopists (91.1% and 92.5% for each clinic) but still a sign that telehealth was a viable alternative for most endoscopy consultations, the study investigators said.

Their review found that an in-person follow-up consultation was suggested for 3.5% of the telehealth appointments, and the need for a physical examination was flagged in 5.1%.

Another bonus for telehealth was a significantly lower rate of “failure to attend” consultations, which was halved from 12.6% to 6.4% compared to the rates seen for a comparable  number of face-to-face consultations in the previous year.

Failure to attend was defined as non-attendance at a booked appointment clinic or failure to respond to three phone calls.

The review found that the average phone consult duration was slightly longer for the post-endoscopy vs advanced endoscopy clinics (11 min vs 14 min).

Study lead author Dr Leonardo Zorron Cheng Tao Pu, Endoscopy Clinical and Research Fellow at Austin Health, said the compulsory move to telehealth for endoscopy-related clinics had shown it was a viable alternative to outpatient clinics and  might be also provide cost savings for patients and hospitals.

Telehealth was a ‘good fit’ for endoscopy clinic consultations that are used to to inform and consent the patient for an procedure or explain the results of a recent procedure, he said.

“This was true for less complex clinics (e.g. advices regarding  colonoscopy intervals after a polyp  was removed)  and more  complex clinics  (e.g. investigation of pancreatic lesion with endoscopic ultrasound) alike,” he said

“We believe that this is  likely a valid option even after COVID-19 for endoscopy-related clinics and potentially  a good option for other outpatient clinics where face to face consultations are not  required,” the study authors concluded.

The findings are published in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

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