The use of telemedicine (TM) has long been available, but recent restrictions to hospitals due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have accelerated the global implementation of TM. However, evidence on the effectiveness of this technology for the care of spine surgery patients is limited. In this systematic review the authors aimed to examine the current utilization of TM for spine surgery.
Using PubMed, Scopus, and the Cochrane Library, the authors performed a systematic review of the literature focused on the themes of telemedicine and spine surgery. Included in the search were randomized controlled trials, cohort studies, and case-controlled studies. Two independent reviewers conducted the study appraisal, data abstraction, and quality assessments of the studies.
Out of 1463 references from the initial search results, 12 studies met the inclusion criteria. The majority of TM interventions focused on improving perioperative patient communication and patient education by using mobile phone apps, online surveys, or online materials for consent. The studies reported the feasibility of the use of TM for perioperative care and positive user experiences from the patients.
The current increase in TM adoption due to the COVID-19 crisis presents an opportunity to further develop and validate this technology. Early evidence in the literature supports the use of TM as an adjunct to traditional in-person clinical encounters for certain perioperative tasks such as supplemental patient education and postoperative surveys.