The doctor will see you, online

online post-op care

The doctor will see you, online: Trading the waiting room for the chat room

October 9, 2015

Would you skip the doctor’s office for 15 minutes of online care? A study published on September 22, 2015 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons concluded that patients prefer online post-operative care over in-person care. This study was conducted at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville between May and December 2014. It surveyed 50 patients after routine, uncomplicated surgeries, such as elective gall bladder removal or hernia repair. Some patients completed in-person follow-ups while others had post-operative care conducted online.

  • 76% of participants said online care was acceptable as the only form of follow-up care
  • For 68% of patients, online and in-person visits were equally effective

How does this work

The patient must upload images of the treatment site to a secure portal for the doctor to review. Based on the images and any symptoms the patient submits, the doctor can evaluate the patient’s post-operative recovery.

There are several benefits to monitoring progress online.

  • Patients can easily access the online portal and follow-up when it is convenient for them.
  • It decreases the amount of time involved in follow-up care. It takes a patient who follows up in the office about 103 minutes, including travel time. Patients with online follow ups spend approximately 15 minutes.
  • It helps doctors more efficiently use their time. They can spend less time monitoring post-operative progress in person. This gives doctors more time to spend with the patients that need to be seen in the office.
  • Health care costs may decrease as patients do not have to pay for a visit to the doctor’s office.

All of these benefits help contribute to why patients prefer to have their post-operative review online.

Room for improvement

According to Dr. Kristy Kummerow Broman, lead author of the study and general surgical resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, “By the end, all of our surgeons saw utility in the concept of online care.”

However, she also points out that this is the beginning of online care, and there are still steps that need to be taken. For example, the study only evaluates patients’ interest in online health evaluations. It does not cover any safety, liability, or quality of care concerns. Instead, standards to determine when patients can be seen online and when they should come in to the office still need to be explored.

U.S. News and World Report quotes Dr. Kummerow Broman saying, “We wanted to first establish whether this method is something that patients wanted, and now that we feel we have done so, we are continuing our research in this area trying to develop ways to measure safety and quality.”

It comes down to whether or not the benefits out-weigh the risks. But, with more everyday activities being conducted via the Internet, it may not be long before you login for your next doctor’s appointment online.