Positive impact of the pandemic: The effect of post–COVID-19 virtual visit implementation on departmental efficiency and patient satisfaction in a quaternary care center

Zach Pennington, Giorgos D. Michalopoulos, Aaron J. Biedermann, Jeffrey R. Ziegler, Sherri L. Durst, Robert J. Spinner, Fredric B. Meyer, David J. Daniels, Mohamad Bydon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly changed clinical practice across US healthcare. Increased adoption of telemedicine has emerged as an alternative to in-person contact for patient-physician interactions. The aim of this study was to analyze the impact of telemedicine on workflow and care delivery from January 2019 to December 2021 in a neurosurgical department at a quaternary care center. METHODS Prospectively captured data on clinic appointment utilization, duration, and outcomes were queried. Visits were divided into in-person visits and telemedicine appointments, categorized as follow-up visits of previously surgically treated patients, internal consultations, new patient visits, and early postoperative returns after surgery. Appointment volume was compared preand postpandemic using March 2020 as the pandemic onset. Clinical efficiency was measured by time to appointment, rate of on-time appointments, proportion of appointments resulting in surgical intervention (surgical yield), and patient-reported satisfaction, the latter measured as the proportion of patients indicating “high likelihood to recommend practice.” RESULTS A total of 54,562 visits occurred, most commonly for follow-up for previously operated patients (51.8%), internal new patient referrals (24.5%), and external new patient referrals (19.8%). Total visit volume was stable preto postpandemic (1521.3 vs 1512, p = 0.917). However, in-person visits significantly decreased (1517/month vs 1220/month, p<0.001), with a nadir in April 2020, while telemedicine appointment utilization increased significantly (0.3% vs 19.1% of all visits). Telemedicine utilization remained stable throughout the 1st calendar year following the pandemic. Telemedicine appointments were associated with shorter time to appointment than in-person visits both before and after the pandemic onset (0–5 days from appointment request: 60% vs 33% vs 29.8%, p<0.001). Patients had on-time appointments in 87% of telemedicine encounters. Notably, telemedicine appointments resulted in surgery in 31.8% of internal consultations or new patient visits, a significantly lower rate than that for in-person visits (51.8%). After the widespread integration of telemedicine, patient satisfaction for all visits was higher than before the pandemic onset (85.9% vs 88.5%, p = 0.027). CONCLUSIONS Telemedicine use significantly increased following the pandemic onset, compensating for observed decreases in face-to-face visits. Utilization rates have remained stable, suggesting effective integration, and delays between referrals and appointments were lower than for in-person visits. Importantly, telemedicine integration was not associated with a decrease in overall patient satisfaction, although telemedicine appointments had a lower surgical yield. These data suggest that telemedicine smoothened the impact of the pandemic on clinical workflow and helped to maintain continuity and quality of outpatient care. https://thejns.org/doi/abs/10.3171/2022.3.FOCUS2243

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberE10
JournalNeurosurgical focus
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2022


  • COVID-19
  • surgical consultation
  • telehealth
  • telemedicine
  • virtual visit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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