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Online Follow-Up Feasible for Most Surgery Patients

Pros: convenience, surgeon efficiency gains; cons: liability, modified patient-provider relationships

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Online postoperative care is preferred over in-person care by a majority of patients who have routine, uncomplicated surgery, according to research published online Sept. 22 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

The study included 50 patients who had both online and in-person care visits after elective laparoscopic cholecystectomy, laparoscopic ventral hernia repair, umbilical hernia repair, or inguinal hernia repair by one of five surgeons. Patients in the study uploaded images of their incision sites to a secure, online portal, and their surgeons responded to the patients' photos and symptom reports. Patients and surgeons did not need to be online at the same time.

The researchers found that 76 percent of patients said online care was acceptable as the only form of follow-up. For 68 percent of the patients, online and in-person visits were deemed equally effective.

The researchers write that the study identified potential advantages of online care, "including convenient access for patients, decreased patient travel times, and surgeon efficiency gains." They added, however, that "these [benefits] must be carefully weighed against potential detriments of using patient-generated data to provide clinical assessment, including concerns about liability, provider work burden, and modified patient-provider relationships."

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