Ayesha Azeem ‘23
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected all aspects of the healthcare field, especially inpatient care. When the lockdowns began, emergency surgeries remained unaffected while elective surgeries, like weight loss (bariatric) surgeries, were immediately given lesser priority. In outpatient interactions, many providers had to rapidly adjust to telemedicine to continue accommodating healthcare and keep the community safe from virus transmission. Interestingly, telemedicine had been used in almost every specialty and showed promising results in the treatment of patients with chronic diseases like diabetes mellitus pre-pandemic, but never to the extent it is employed today. Additionally, until now, little research was done on the effectiveness of telemedicine in surgical fields. In a study conducted at Stony Brook Medicine, Dr. Aurora D. Pryor, MD and colleagues reviewed the effectiveness of telemedicine visits in the Bariatric and Metabolic Weight Loss Center.
The study recorded patient volume separated into two categories: pre-telehealth (appointments from February to March 2020) and post-telehealth (appointments from March to April 2020), with 506 patient visits in the pre-telehealth period and 413 patient visits in the post-telehealth period. The study found that after the transition from in-person visits to telehealth appointments, there was a decrease in new patient visits for all practitioners. This occurrence was attributed to the pandemic and its impact on health insurance and patient safety. However, follow-up visits increased in almost all specialities, especially bariatrics and psychology. In the field of bariatrics, patients often require lifelong follow-up to monitor weight loss and avoid complications. The recent implementation of telemedicine appointments has allowed for stable follow-ups with a much lower no-show rate (15.9% to 12.9%). Given that there is a positive association between postoperative follow-up attendance rates and weight loss outcomes, proving that telemedicine has several benefits in the medical setting.
The findings of this study indicate that providers should consider enforcing a permanent option of telemedicine visits in a post-pandemic world. Not only would such a resource open up avenues of healthcare to a much wider population, but it would also enrich the standard of medicine in the community as a whole.
 A.M. Brown, et. al., The impact of telemedicine adoption on a multidisciplinary bariatric surgery practice during the COVID-19 pandemic. Annals of Surgery 272, 6 (2020). doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000004391.
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