Using telemedicine on an acute care surgery service: improving clinic efficiency and access to care

Kaela Parnell, Kali Kuhlenschmidt, Dina Madni, Cynthia Chernyakhovsky, Inna Donovan, Karen Garofalo, Susan Hambrick, Daniel J Scott, Sarah C Oltmann, Stephen Luk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Telemedicine has been shown to improve patient access to medical care while potentially improving overall healthcare efficiency. It has not been consistently explored on an acute care surgery service as a method of increasing clinic availability and efficiency within a safety-net hospital system. Socioeconomic hardships associated with an in-person clinic visit can deter patients with limited resources. A virtual clinic for post-operative laparoscopic cholecystectomy patients was developed. We hypothesized that a virtual follow-up increases clinic efficiency and availability for new patients without compromising patient safety. Methods: A retrospective review of patient and clinic outcomes before and after implementing virtual post-op visits for uncomplicated laparoscopic cholecystectomy patients on an acute care surgery service was performed. Providers called post-operative patients using a standardized questionnaire. Data included outpatient clinic composition (new vs. post-operative patients), elective operations scheduled, emergency department visits, and loss to follow-up rates. Results: February to March 2017 was the baseline pre-intervention period, while February to March 2019 was post-intervention. Pre-intervention clinics consisted of 17% new and 50% post-op visits, in comparison to 31% new and 27% post-op visits in the post-intervention group (p < 0.01). Elective operations scheduled increased slightly from 8.4 to 11.5 per 100 patient visits, but was not statistically significant (p = 0.09). There was no change in the number of post-operative patients returning to the emergency department (p = 0.91) or loss to follow-up (p = 0.30) rates. Conclusions: Through the implementation of virtual post-operative visits for laparoscopic cholecystectomy patients, clinic efficiency improved by increasing new patient encounters, decreasing post-operative volume, and trending towards increased operations scheduled. This change did not compromise patient safety. Further implementation of telemedicine on an acute care surgery service is a promising method to expand services offered to an at-risk population and increase efficiency in a resource-limited environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSurgical endoscopy
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • Acute care surgery
  • Efficiency
  • Post-operative
  • Safety
  • Telemedicine
  • Virtual visit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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