To protect patients and staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers across specialties expanded access to telehealth.

During Becker’s Orthopedics + ASC Virtual Forum on Aug. 26, a panel of two orthopedic surgeons discussed their experience with telehealth before and during the pandemic. Panelists were Joseph Bosco, MD, chairman of clinical affairs with NYU Langone Health in New York City, and Brian Cole, MD, surgeon and sports medicine specialist with Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush in Chicago.
Here is an excerpt from the conversation, slightly edited for clarity. To view the full session on-demand, click here.
Question: Can you walk me through your experience with telehealth? What role did it play in your practice pre-pandemic and what role does it play now?
Dr. Brian Cole: Before the pandemic, we were aware of several technology platforms that offered telemedicine, but the challenge was the reimbursement pathways were not there. And I think we had two providers that were doing telemedicine and they were doing it very strategically. When the pandemic hit, we were immediately notified by third-party payers and CMS that there was ample reimbursement for telemedicine. We trained a hundred providers on telemedicine within 48 hours. And then we trained a hundred physical therapists and occupational therapists on the technology too. So, by the end of the second week in March, only the most urgent cases came into the office. And we’ve been very successful at continuing to provide services.

Dr. Joe Bosco: One of my younger partners was doing some telemedicine visits before the pandemic and I was like, “I should try that.” I had trouble logging on and it didn’t work for me. It was glitchy. And that was it. I said, “I’m not doing this anymore.” Then the pandemic hit and we were all forced to use telemedicine and figure out how to use it. And for some patients, it really is the best thing.
I had one patient, an ex-paratrooper, fall off his motorcycle and hurt his knee. We did a telemedicine visit. He showed me that it was swollen. I ordered an MRI without seeing him. The MRI said he had a complete MCL tear. ACL was OK. We got him a brace, he wore the brace, and I checked up with him in four weeks. I’ve never seen him in person, but he’s happy because it’s hard for a patient to come into the office with a banged-up knee like that. It’s painful. Without telemedicine, he would have had to come in, I would have examined him, and then I would have ordered an MRI. We were able to get him the same care with telemedicine.

By Brian Zimmerman for Beckers Othopedics

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