Acceptability of teleconsultation for osteoporotic patients post-COVID-19

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Background: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teleconsultations (TCs) have become common practice for many chronic conditions, including osteoporosis. While satisfaction with TCs among patients increases in times of emergency, we have little knowledge of whether the acceptability of TCs persists once in-person visits return to being a feasible and safe option. In this study, we assess the acceptability of TCs across five dimensions for osteoporosis care among patients who started or continued with TCs after the COVID-19 pandemic had waned. We then explore the patient characteristics associated with these perceptions.

Methods: Between January and April 2022, 80 osteoporotic patients treated at the Humanitas Hospital in Milan, Italy, were recruited to answer an online questionnaire about the acceptability of TCs for their care. The acceptability of TCs was measured using a modified version of the Service User Technology Acceptability Questionnaire (SUTAQ), which identifies five domains of acceptability: perceived benefits, satisfaction, substitution, privacy and discomfort, and care personnel concerns. Multivariable ordinary least squares (OLS) linear regression analysis was performed to assess which patient characteristics in terms of demographics, socio-economic conditions, digital skills, social support, clinical characteristics and pattern of TC use were correlated with the five domains of acceptability measured through the SUTAQ.

Results: The degree of acceptability of TCs was overall good across the 80 respondents and the five domains. Some heterogeneity in perceptions emerged with respect to TCs substituting for in-person visits, negatively impacting continuity of care and reducing the length of consultations. For the most part, acceptability was not affected by patient characteristics with a few exceptions related to treatment time and familiarity with the TC service modality (i.e., length of osteoporosis treatment and number of TCs experienced by the patient).

Conclusions: TCs appear to be an acceptable option for osteoporosis care in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. This study suggests that other characteristics besides age, digital skills and social support, which are traditionally relevant to TC acceptability, should be taken into account in order to better target this care delivery modality.

Full text: Pongiglione B, Carrone F, Angelucci A, Mazziotti G, Compagni A. Patient characteristics associated with the acceptability of teleconsultation: a retrospective study of osteoporotic patients post-COVID-19. BMC Health Serv Res. 2023 Mar 8;23(1):230. doi: 10.1186/s12913-023-09224-x. PMID: 36890513; PMCID: PMC9994774.

Keywords: Acceptability; COVID-19; Chronic care; Osteoporosis; Telemedicine.