Clinicians across multiple disciplines largely accepted telehealth in the cystic fibrosis (CF) care model during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the results of a survey published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

A multidisciplinary working group distributed cross-sectional, web-based surveys to 80 clinicians at medium to large CF programs across the United States. Respondents included physicians, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, registered nurses, registered dietitians, social workers, mental health providers, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, and physical therapists. All respondents had completed 1 CF telehealth visit.

The 35-question survey explored how telehealth visits were performed, clinicians’ perceptions of their telehealth experience, and preferences for future telehealth visits. A survey was first distributed between May and June 2020, while a follow-up survey with identical questions was distributed again at a later date to identify changes in telehealth perceptions after 6 months of use.


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Of the 80 clinicians who completed the initial survey, 63 also completed the follow-up survey. Approximately 90% of clinicians said they had never used telehealth prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Up to 83% of respondents said they received “adequate” training before starting telehealth, and 65% of clinicians said they completed more than 10 visits by the time they were administered the survey.

Zoom was the most commonly used platform for telehealth visits, accounting for 56% of clinicians in the initial survey and 57% of clinicians in the follow-up survey. Approximately 83% of respondents to the 6-month follow-up survey said they had experienced a technical difficulty at least 1 time during a telehealth visit, but 88% of these clinicians noted they were still able to complete the visit with the patient.

The majority of respondents (78%) said none or few of the patients seen during a telehealth visit had to be evaluated in an in-person encounter. The proportion that endorsed this sentiment slightly decreased at follow-up (68%; P =.4). In the follow-up survey, the researchers found relatively high levels of satisfaction (89%) and improved efficiency (56%) with the use of telehealth in CF care. Additionally, 57% reported that telehealth had a positive impact on the clinician-patient relationship.

Nearly all (99%) of clinicians said they would prefer that some/most visits be performed using telehealth if these types of visits were still offered in the future. The visits deemed by clinicians as the most appropriate for telehealth included quarterly visits (95%) and hospital follow up (61%).

At the follow-up survey, interdisciplinary asynchronous structure was considered the preferred structure for future telehealth visits (58%). Additionally, 89% of respondents at follow-up said they were interested in technology that could remotely assess oximetry or lung function in patients with CF.

Limitations of this survey study included the small sample size of respondents at both time points as well as the lack of long-term perception data beyond the 6-month follow-up mark.

The authors added that while their “findings highlight the utility of telehealth for enhancing interdisciplinary CF healthcare delivery,” additional research is “needed to understand its impact on clinical and patient reported outcomes.”

Reference

Perkins RC, Davis J, NeSmith A, et al. Favorable clinician acceptability of telehealth as part of the cystic fibrosis care model during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ann Am Thorac Soc. Published online February 26, 2021.  doi:10.1513/AnnalsATS.202012-1484RL