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Carla Mora, Isabel Sampedro, Angelina Rodríguez-Caballero, Rubén Martín-Láez, Marta Ortega-Roldán, Lashmi Venkatraghavan, Manuel Fernández-Miera, Mar Varea, Marcos Pajaron-Guerrero, Jesus Esteban, Blanca Moreno, Asunción Manzano, Isabel Ruiz, Juan Martino, Gelareh Zadeh, Mark Bernstein, and Carlos Velásquez

OBJECTIVE

Despite growing evidence on the benefits of outpatient oncological neurosurgery (OON), it is only performed in a few specialized centers and there are no previous descriptions of established OON programs in Europe. Moreover, increasing application of telemedicine strategies, especially after the start of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, is drastically changing neurosurgical management, particularly in the case of vulnerable populations such as neuro-oncological patients. In this context, the authors implemented an OON program in their hospital with telematic follow-up. Herein, they describe the protocol and qualitatively analyze the barriers and facilitators of the development process.

METHODS

An OON program was developed through the following steps: assessment of hospital needs, specific OON training, multidisciplinary team organization, and OON protocol design. In addition, the implementation phase included training sessions, a pilot study, and continuous improvement sessions. Finally, barriers and facilitators of the protocol’s implementation were identified from the feedback of all participants.

RESULTS

An OON protocol was successfully designed and implemented for resection or biopsy of supratentorial lesions up to 3 cm in diameter. The protocol included the patient’s admission to the day surgery unit, noninvasive anesthetic monitoring, same-day discharge, and admission to the hospital-at-home (HaH) unit for telematic and on-site postoperative care. After a pilot study including 10 procedures in 9 patients, the main barriers identified were healthcare provider resistance to change, lack of experience in outpatient neurosurgery, patient reluctance, and limitations in the recruitment of patients. Key facilitators of the process were the patient education program, the multidisciplinary team approach, and the HaH-based telematic postoperative care.

CONCLUSIONS

Initiating an OON program with telematic follow-up in a European clinical setting is feasible. Nevertheless, it poses several barriers that can be overcome by identifying and maximizing key facilitators of the process. Among them, patient education, a multidisciplinary team approach, and HaH-based postoperative care were crucial to the success of the program. Future studies should investigate the cost-effectiveness of telemedicine to assess potential cost savings, from reduced travel and wait times, and the impact on patient satisfaction.

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Narendra Kumar, Varidh Katiyar, Kokkula Praneeth, Ravi Sharma, Priya Narwal, Amol Raheja, Vivek Tandon, Shashwat Mishra, Kanwaljeet Garg, Ashish Suri, P. Sarat Chandra, and Shashank S. Kale

OBJECTIVE

The adoption of telemedicine became a necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic because patients found commuting to be difficult owing to travel restrictions. Initially, audio-based teleconsultations were provided. Later, on the basis of the feedback of patients and caregivers, the authors started to provide video-based teleconsultations via WhatsApp. The authors subsequently surveyed the patients and caregivers to determine their satisfaction levels with telemedicine services.

METHODS

An anonymized telephone survey of patients who had participated in teleconsultation was conducted with a structured questionnaire. The responses were analyzed and their correlations with the perceived benefits and limitations of audio and video teleconsultation were determined.

RESULTS

Three hundred respondents were included in the first round of surveys, of whom 250 (83.3%) consented to video teleconsultation. Among the respondents who participated in both audio and video teleconsultations (n = 250), paired analysis showed that video teleconsultation was perceived as better in terms of providing easier access to healthcare services (p < 0.001), saving time (p < 0.001), and satisfaction with the way patient needs were conveyed to healthcare providers (p = 0.023), as well as in terms of adequacy of addressing healthcare needs (p < 0.001) and consequently providing a higher rate of overall satisfaction (p < 0.001). For both audio and video teleconsultation, overall patient satisfaction was significantly related to only previous exposure to WhatsApp. However, for video consultation, longer call duration (p = 0.023) was an important independent factor. Video teleconsultation was preferable to face-to-face consultation irrespective of educational status, but higher education was associated with preference for video teleconsultation.

CONCLUSIONS

Both audio and video teleconsultation are viable cost-effective surrogates for in-person physical neurosurgical consultation. Although audio teleconsultation is more user-friendly and is not restricted by educational status, video teleconsultation trumps the former owing to a more efficient and satisfactory doctor-to-patient interface.

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Vicki M. Butenschoen, Jasmin Ahlfeld, Bernhard Meyer, and Sandro M. Krieg

OBJECTIVE

Healthcare digitization has led to increasing tablet-based apps to improve diagnostics, self-discipline, and well-being in patients. Moreover, patient-reported outcome measures are crucial for optimized treatment, with superior applicability if independent from patient visits. Whereas most uses cover health maintenance, only a few studies have focused on cognitive testing in neurosurgical patients despite its nature as one of the most integrative outcome measures in neurooncology.

METHODS

The authors performed a prospective single-center feasibility study including neurosurgical patients affected by intraaxial tumors and healthy subjects, testing cognitive function by using a digitized app-based approach and conventional paper-and-pencil (PP) tests. Healthy subjects underwent follow-up testing for retest reliability.

RESULTS

The authors included 24 patients with brain tumor and 10 healthy subjects, all of whom completed both tests. Equivalent mean performance results were found in the tablet-based digital app and PP counterparts; whereas the digital approach had shorter test duration in patients (29.9 minutes for PP vs 21.9 minutes for app, p = 0.019) and in the healthy cohort (23.2 minutes for PP vs 16.4 minutes for app, p = 0.003), patients with brain tumor scored lower when both test strategies were applied. Results were consistent in healthy subjects after a median of 3 months.

CONCLUSIONS

Cognitive function assessment is feasible using a digitized tablet-based app, with equivalent results to those of PP tests in healthy subjects and patients with brain tumor. Thus, this approach allows much closer follow-up independent of patient visits and might provide a viable option to improve patient follow-ups.

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Mitch R. Paro, William A. Lambert, Nathan K. Leclair, Arijit R. Chakraborty, Sophia Angelo, Benjamin Pesante, Petronella Stoltz, Jonathan E. Martin, Markus J. Bookland, and David S. Hersh

OBJECTIVE

Telemedicine can be an effective tool for the evaluation of the pediatric patient with a cranial deformity, but it increases the reliance of neurosurgical providers on data provided by patients and families. Family-acquired photographs, in particular, can be used to augment the evaluation of pediatric head shape abnormalities via telemedicine, but photographs of sufficient quality are necessary. Here, the authors systematically reviewed the quality and utility of family-acquired photographs for patients referred to their pediatric neurosurgery clinic for telemedicine-based head shape evaluations.

METHODS

All telemedicine encounters that were completed for head shape abnormalities at the authors’ institution between May 2020 and December 2021 were retrospectively reviewed. Instructions were sent to families prior to each visit with examples of ideal photographs. Three orthogonal views of the patient’s head—frontal, lateral, and vertex—were requested. Data were collected regarding demographics, diagnosis, follow-up, and photograph quality. Quality variables included orthogonality of each requested view, appropriate distance, appropriate lighting, presence of distracting elements, and whether hair obscured the head shape.

RESULTS

Overall, 565 patients had 892 visits during the study period. A total of 1846 photograph requests were made, and 3335 photographs were received for 829 visits. Of 2676 requested orthogonal views, 1875 (70%) were received. Of these, 1826 (97%) had adequate lighting, 1801 (96%) had appropriate distance, and 1826 (97%) had no distracting features. Hair did not obscure the head shape on the vertex view in 557 visits with orthogonal vertex views (82%). In-person follow-up was requested for further medical evaluation in 40 visits (5%).

CONCLUSIONS

The family-acquired photographs in this series demonstrated high rates of adequate lighting and distance, without distracting features. Lack of orthogonality and obscuration of the head shape by hair, however, were more common issues. Family education prior to the visit may improve the quality of family-acquired photographs but requires an investment of time by medical staff. Efforts to further improve photographic quality will facilitate efforts to perform craniometric evaluations through telemedicine visits.

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Fabian Sommer, Francois Waterkeyn, Ibrahim Hussain, Jacob L. Goldberg, Sertac Kirnaz, Rodrigo Navarro-Ramirez, Alaaeldin Azmi Ahmad, Massimo Balsano, Branden Medary, Hamisi Shabani, Amanda Ng, Pravesh Shankar Gadjradj, and Roger Härtl

OBJECTIVE

Telemedicine technology has been developed to allow surgeons in countries with limited resources to access expert technical guidance during surgical procedures. The authors report their initial experience using state-of-the-art wearable smart glasses with wireless capability to transmit intraoperative video content during spine surgery from sub-Saharan Africa to experts in the US.

METHODS

A novel smart glasses system with integrated camera and microphone was worn by a spine surgeon in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, during 3 scoliosis correction surgeries. The images were transmitted wirelessly through a compatible software system to a computer viewed by a group of fellowship-trained spine surgeons in New York City. Visual clarity was determined using a modified Snellen chart, and a percentage score was determined on the smallest line that could be read from the 8-line chart on white and black backgrounds. A 1- to 5-point scale (from 1 = unrecognizable to 5 = optimal clarity) was used to score other visual metrics assessed using a color test card including hue, contrast, and brightness. The same scoring system was used by the group to reach a consensus on visual quality of 3 intraoperative points including instruments, radiographs (ability to see pedicle screws relative to bony anatomy), and intraoperative surgical field (ability to identify bony landmarks such as transverse processes, pedicle screw starting point, laminar edge).

RESULTS

All surgeries accomplished the defined goals safely with no intraoperative complications. The average download and upload connection speeds achieved in Dar es Salaam were 45.21 and 58.89 Mbps, respectively. Visual clarity with the modified white and black Snellen chart was 70.8% and 62.5%, respectively. The average scores for hue, contrast, and brightness were 2.67, 3.33, and 2.67, respectively. Visualization quality of instruments, radiographs, and intraoperative surgical field were 3.67, 1, and 1, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS

Application of smart glasses for telemedicine offers a promising tool for surgical education and remote training, especially in low- and middle-income countries. However, this study highlights some limitations of this technology, including optical resolution, intraoperative lighting, and internet connection challenges. With continued collaboration between clinicians and industry, future iterations of smart glasses technology will need to address these issues to stimulate robust clinical utilization.

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Hirotaka Sato, Manabu Kinoshita, Yuji Tani, Teruo Kimura, Toshiya Osanai, Hiroaki Osanai, and Katsuhiko Ogasawara

OBJECTIVE

“Join,” an imaging technology–based telemedicine system, allows simultaneous radiological information sharing between physically remote institutions, virtually connecting advanced medical institutions and rural hospitals. This study aimed to elucidate the health economics effect of Join for neurological telemedicine in rural areas in Hokkaido, Japan.

METHODS

Information concerning 189 requests for patient transfer from Furano Kyokai Hospital, a regional rural hospital, to Asahikawa Medical University Hospital (AMUH), an advanced academic medical institution, was retrospectively collected. The Join system was established between Furano Kyokai Hospital and AMUH in February 2019. Data collected from patients between April 2017 and December 2018 were included in the non-Join group, and those collected between February 2019 and October 2020 were included in the Join group. Clinical variables, reasons for patient transfer requests, duration of hospital stay, and medical costs per patient were analyzed between these two groups. Furthermore, clinical characteristics were compared between patients who were transferred and not transferred based on Join.

RESULTS

More patients were discharged < 7 days after transfer to AMUH in the non-Join group compared with the Join group (p = 0.02). When focusing on the Join group, more patients who were not transferred were discharged < 1 week (p < 0.01). On the other hand, more patients required surgery (p = 0.01) when transferred. The ratio of patients whose medical cost was < USD5000 substantially decreased, from 33% for the non-Join group to 13% for the Join group.

CONCLUSIONS

An imaging technology–based telemedicine system, Join, contributed to reducing unnecessary neuro-emergency patient transfer in a remote rural area, and telemedicine with an integrated smartphone system allowed medical personnel to effectively triage at a distance neuro-emergency patients requiring advanced tertiary care.

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Uma V. Mahajan, Neha Sharma, Marquis Maynard, Lei Kang, Collin M. Labak, Alankrita Raghavan, Martha Sajatovic, Alan Hoffer, Berje H. Shammassian, James M. Wright, Xiaofei Zhou, and Christina Huang Wright

OBJECTIVE

Admission to the hospital for an acute cerebrovascular condition such as stroke or brain hemorrhage can be a traumatic and disorienting experience for patients and their family members. The COVID-19 pandemic has further intensified this experience in addition to exacerbating clinician and resident burnout. To ameliorate some of these concerns, a team of resident and medical student trainees implemented a virtual shared medical appointment (vSMA) program for inpatients with acute cerebrovascular disorders and their caregivers. The authors hypothesized that an early intervention in the form of a vSMA improves patient and caregiver health literacy and preparedness while simultaneously educating clinical trainees on effective communication skills and reducing clinician burnout.

METHODS

Patients and caregivers of admitted patients were identified through a census of neurosurgery, neurocritical care, and neurology electronic medical records. A weekly 60-minute secure virtual session consisted of introductions and a 10-minute standardized presentation on cerebrovascular disease management, followed by participant-guided discussion. Participants completed presession and postsession surveys. Through this small feasibility study data were obtained regarding present challenges, both expected and unforeseen.

RESULTS

A total of 170 patients were screened, and 13 patients and 26 caregivers participated in at least 1 vSMA session. A total of 6 different healthcare providers facilitated sessions. The vSMA program received overwhelmingly positive feedback from caregivers. Survey responses demonstrated that 96.4% of caregivers and 75% of patients were satisfied with the session, 96.4% of caregivers and 87.5% of patients would recommend this type of appointment to a friend or family member, and 88.8% of providers reported feeling validated by conducting the session. The participant group had a 20% greater percentage of patients discharged home without home needs compared to the nonparticipant group. The primary obstacles encountered included technological frustrations with the consent process and the sessions themselves.

CONCLUSIONS

Implementation of a vSMA program at a tertiary care center during a pandemic was feasible. Themes caregivers expressed on the postsession survey included better understanding of caring for a stroke patient and coping with the unpredictability of a patient’s prognosis. The pandemic has precipitated shifts toward telehealth, but this study highlights the importance of avoiding marginalization of elderly and less technologically inclined populations.

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Franco Servadei, Katharine J. Drummond, Ann Stroink, and Jamie J. Van Gompel

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Shiyu Zhang, Fangye Li, Yining Zhao, Ruochu Xiong, Jingyue Wang, Zhichao Gan, Xinghua Xu, Qun Wang, Huaping Zhang, Jiashu Zhang, and Xiaolei Chen

OBJECTIVE

To increase access to health interventions and healthcare services for patients in resource-constrained settings, strategies such as telemedicine must be implemented for the allocation of medical resources across geographic boundaries. Telecollaboration is the dominant form of surgical telemedicine. In this study, the authors report and evaluate a novel mobile internet-based mixed-reality interactive telecollaboration (MIMIT) system as a new paradigm for telemedicine and validate its clinical feasibility.

METHODS

The application of this system was demonstrated for long-distance, real-time collaboration of neuroendoscopic procedures. The system consists of a local video processing workstation, a head-mounted mixed-reality display device, and a mobile remote device, connected over mobile internet (4G or 5G), allowing global point-to-point communication. Using this system, 20 cases of neuroendoscopic surgery were performed and evaluated. The system setup, composite video latency, technical feasibility, clinical implementation, and future potential business model were analyzed and evaluated.

RESULTS

The MIMIT system allows two surgeons to perform complex visual and verbal communication during the operation. The average video delay time is 184.25 msec (range 160–230 msec) with 4G mobile internet, and 23.25 msec (range 20–26 msec) with 5G mobile internet. Excellent image resolution enabled remote neurosurgeons to visualize all critical anatomical structures intraoperatively. Remote instructors could easily make marks on the surgical view; then the composite image, as well as the audio conversation, was transferred to the local surgeon. In this way, a real-time, long-distance collaboration can occur. This system was used for 20 neuroendoscopic surgeries in various cities in China and even across countries (Boston, Massachusetts, to Jingzhou, China). Its simplicity and practicality have been recognized by both parties, and there were no technically related complications recorded.

CONCLUSIONS

The MIMIT system allows for real-time, long-distance telecollaborative neuroendoscopic procedures and surgical training through a commercially available and inexpensive system. It enables remote experts to implement real-time, long-distance intraoperative interaction to guide inexperienced local surgeons, thus integrating the best medical resources and possibly promoting both diagnosis and treatment. Moreover, it can popularize and improve neurosurgical endoscopy technology in more hospitals to benefit more patients, as well as more neurosurgeons.