Telehealth Adoption and Perspectives Among Pediatric Otolaryngologists Following the COVID-19 Pandemic

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Annals of Otology, Rhinology and Laryngology


Objectives: To assess use of and physician experiences with pediatric otolaryngology telehealth visits as impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Study Design/Setting: Cross sectional survey. Methods: A 15-question survey was electronically distributed to 656 members of the American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology in August 2021, addressing member demographics, experiential practice elements, and use pre-pandemic, during the initial shutdown period of March-May 2020, and current use at the time of survey inquiry. Results: There were 124 respondents (response rate = 18.9%). Incident use pre-pandemic and during the shutdown were 21.0% (n = 26), and 92.7% (n = 115), respectively. Current use was 83.9% (n = 104) and the percentage of new current users (79.5%, n = 78) was significant (P <.0001,95% CI = 70.6%-86.4%). Estimated median telehealth visit rates pre-pandemic, during shutdown, and currently were 0 to 1, 4 to 5, and 2 to 3 per week, respectively (P <.0001). A difference in post-covid adoption rates was noted only for location (P =.008), with no differences for years out of training or practice type. Compared to in-person visits, physician satisfaction with telehealth visits was rated equivalent (49.0%) or worse/much worse (48.1%). The most common telehealth uses were follow-up visits (83.7%), pre-operative counseling (76.9%), and post-operative evaluation (69.2%). The need for a detailed exam (89.4%) and initial visits (32.7%) were reasons a telehealth visit was not offered. Conclusions: The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have precipitated a rapid increase in telehealth adoption among surveyed pediatric otolaryngologists, regardless of age or practice type. The most significant limitations remain the need for a detailed exam, perceived low patient technological literacy, and limitations to interpretive services. Technology-based optimization of these barriers could lead to increased use and physician satisfaction.

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