COVID-19 Updates

Telemedicine Before and After Orthopedic Surgery

How does telemedicine benefit your patient’s orthopedic surgery? Find out how telemedicine is becoming the future of your doctor’s visits.
August 18, 2021
Joaquin Sanchez-Sotelo, MD, PhD & Shawn W. O'Driscoll, MD, PhD & Halena M. Gazelka, MD

During the pandemic, Mayo Clinic ramped up its telehealth and digital information, and consumer technologies to better serve patients. Mayo Clinic has been very impressive with the ability to assess patients properly through telemedicine.

Today, orthopedic surgeons are using telemedicine to give patients access to health care services remotely and help them manage their care. That's been a real blessing for the practice and for the patients who really focus on the connection. The relationship between a patient and a doctor or their team is so critical to everything and certainly determines the success of their treatment.


A majority of orthopedic patients are what we call tertiary referral, meaning that they've been referred from another center, from another orthopedic surgeon, typically for a more complex matter. And so typically, they do travel some distance, sometimes quite a distance. And in that regard, this patient population has been particularly beneficially impacted by covid-induced changes in telemedicine.

Orthopedic surgeons are also eLearning at a very high rate. They are constantly learning and that allows surgeons to eventually understand more and diagnose more and deliver more care to patients that otherwise might not have been able to be treated.

There are some challenges orthopedic surgeons face without telemedicine. One is that they don't have quite the quality control data to know how they’re doing that they would if the patient was right close by. And secondly, the patients don't have quite a sense of connection with their treating team of doctors and therapists, and so on, that they would if they were right nearby.


Telemedicine allows surgeons to really build on that connection, that feeling of being connected. Now, patients feel much more connected to the surgeons. They’re able to get the information and keep getting the follow-up information. So the quality control level has gone up as a result of this, which is really good.

And orthopedic surgeons will be able to advance not just in the preoperative and post-operative level but with assessing patients who are completely new. And that's where surgeons are moving into now, doing consultations on patients from anywhere in the world who might be thinking of coming to Mayo Clinic for their care. And surgeons can now offer them something more than just a vague email response to their inquiry.

With screen sharing, doctors can quickly pull up that X-rays, analyze on the X-rays, pull the scans, show patients where the problem is, show the MRI, and flip maybe to some page on information where doctors can show a picture of the surgery. So surgeons still have the chance to see them at least once before the operation and confirm everything they gathered on the screen.


There are limitations that orthopedic surgeons are finding to the assessment other than needing to see the patients ultimately in the office. The main limitations are a few specific tests that can only be done if you have the patient face to face. It is also worth mentioning that there’s something special about the patient-doctor relationship that benefits from human interaction.

The key advantages of telemedicine are those that relate access to convenience and cost because one of those might be a key limiting factor for a patient. There are some patients who just would not be able to travel to Mayo Clinic but now with telemedicine, they would be able to have a consultation. Patients might learn that it becomes worthwhile to make that travel and some sort of way that is made possible.

And the other is convenience. There are convenience factors such as kids needing to get out of school and missing school or people sometimes missing a couple of days of work just to travel to Mayo Clinic, have a consultation, and get back home. And all of these convenience factors are typically associated with cost as well.


So the cost of care, whether it's a plane or gasoline or parking or hotel bills or food bills, is ultimately going to be reduced with telemedicine as well. So when we put all those together, telemedicine is a real advantage to patients. We will make health care more affordable for many patients, but they will still get the best care when they need it. So I think it's here to stay, and I'm really excited about it.

To learn more about telemedicine, click here:

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