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Oliver Ryan M. Malilay, Kevin Paul Ferraris, and Joseph Erroll V. Navarro

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Kevin Paul Ferraris, Jared Paul Golidtum, Brian Karlo W. Zuñiga, Maria Cristina G. Bautista, Jose Carlos Alcazaren, Kenny Seng, and Joseph Erroll Navarro

OBJECTIVE

In the Philippines during recent months, a neurosurgical center that caters primarily to socioeconomically disadvantaged patients has encountered unprecedented changes in practice patterns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, the usual task of outpatient care has shifted to the telemedicine format, bringing along all of its attendant advantages and gargantuan challenges. The authors sought to determine the responsiveness of this telemedicine setup to the needs of their disadvantaged patients and explored the application of Bayesian inference to enhance the use of teleconsultation in daily clinical decision-making.

METHODS

The authors used the following methods to assess the telemedicine setup used in a low-resource setting during the pandemic: 1) a cross-sectional survey of patients who participated in a medical consultation via telemedicine during the 16-week period from March 16, 2020, to July 15, 2020; 2) a cost-benefit analysis of the use of telemedicine by patients; and 3) a case illustration of a Bayesian approach application unique to the teleconsultation scenario.

RESULTS

Of the 272 patient beneficiaries of telemedicine in a 16-week period, 57 responded to the survey. The survey responses regarding neurosurgical outpatient care through telemedicine yielded high ratings of utility for the patients and their caregivers. According to 64% of respondents, the affordability of the telemedicine setup also prevented them from borrowing money from others, among other adverse life events prevented. There were realized financial gains on the part of the patients in terms of cost savings and protection from further impoverishment. The benefit-cost ratio was 3.51 for the patients, signifying that the benefits outweighed the costs. An actual teleconsultation case vignette was reported that is meant to be instructive and contributory to the preparedness of the neurosurgeon on the provider end of the service delivery.

CONCLUSIONS

Telemedicine holds promise as a viable and safe method for health service delivery during the pandemic. In the setting of a health system that is continually challenged by shortages of resources, this study shows that an effective telemedicine setup can come with high benefit-cost ratios and quality of care, along with the assurance of patient satisfaction. The potential for high-quality care can be enhanced by the inclusion of the Bayesian framework to the basic toolkit of remote clinical assessment. When confronted with choices in terms of differential diagnosis and tests, the rigor of a simple application of the Bayesian framework can minimize costs arising from uncertainties.

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Kevin Paul Ferraris, Hideaki Matsumura, Dewa Putu Wisnu Wardhana, Theodor Vesagas, Kenny Seng, Mohd Raffiz Mohd Ali, Eiichi Ishikawa, Akira Matsumura, Rohadi Muhammad Rosyidi, Tjokorda Mahadewa, and Meng-Fai Kuo

OBJECTIVE

The authors, who are from Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan, sought to illustrate the processes of training neurosurgeons in their respective settings by presenting data and analyses of the current state of neurosurgical education across the East Asian region.

METHODS

The authors obtained quantitative data as key indicators of the neurosurgical workforce from each country. Qualitative data analysis was also done to provide a description of the current state of neurosurgical training and education in the region. A strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis was also done to identify strategies for improvement.

RESULTS

The number of neurosurgeons in each country is as follows: 370 in Indonesia, 10,014 in Japan, 152 in Malaysia, 134 in the Philippines, and 639 in Taiwan. With a large neurosurgical workforce, the high-income countries Japan and Taiwan have relatively high neurosurgeon to population ratios of 1 per 13,000 and 1 per 37,000, respectively. In contrast, the low- to middle-income countries Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines have low neurosurgeon to population ratios of 1 per 731,000, 1 per 210,000, and 1 per 807,000, respectively. In terms of the number of training centers, Japan has 857, Taiwan 30, Indonesia 7, Malaysia 5, and the Philippines 10. In terms of the number of neurosurgical residents, Japan has 1000, Taiwan 170, Indonesia 199, Malaysia 53, and the Philippines 51. The average number of yearly additions to the neurosurgical workforce is as follows: Japan 180, Taiwan 27, Indonesia 10, Malaysia 4, and the Philippines 3. The different countries included in this report have many similarities and differences in their models and systems of neurosurgical education. Certain important strategies have been formulated in order for the system to be responsive to the needs of the catchment population: 1) establishment of a robust network of international collaboration for reciprocal certification, skills sharing, and subspecialty training; 2) incorporation of in-service residency and fellowship training within the framework of improving access to neurosurgical care; and 3) strengthening health systems, increasing funding, and developing related policies for infrastructure development.

CONCLUSIONS

The varied situations of neurosurgical education in the East Asian region require strategies that take into account the different contexts in which programs are structured. Improving the education of current and future neurosurgeons becomes an important consideration in addressing the health inequalities in terms of access and quality of care afflicting the growing population in this region of the world.