Telemedicine makes vital health care services available to patients through videoconferencing, remote monitoring, electronic consults and wireless communications. By allowing patients to meet with physicians and specialistsfrom the comfort of their home, telemedicine services is convenient and saves time and money. Research shows that orthopedic telemedicine may be an effective option for treating sports-related injuries.

Telemedicine for Sports-related Orthopedic Injuries

The goals of telehealth include:

  • Making health care accessible to people who live in rural or remote areas
  • Providing people with limited mobility, time or transportation options with quick and convenient access to care
  • Providing access to specialist care
  • Enhancing communication and care coordination among the health care team and a patient
  • Supporting patients in managing their care

A study conducted by physicians in a pediatric sports medicine setting found that telemedicine reduced the cost and time of treatment, and resulted in high levels of patient satisfaction. The researchers evaluated 120 telemedicine visits involving 90 patients under the age of 18 between September 2015 and August 2016. They compared time for clinical visits and wait times of patients who had either a telemedicine visit or an inpatient visit. They also evaluated patient-reported outcomes. The findings, published last year in Journal of ISAKOS,are as follows:

  • 99 percent would recommend telemedicine to other patients
  • 98 percent found telemedicine visits convenient
  • 98 percent would be interested in future telemedicine visits
  • 91 percent of the patients reported that the virtual online consultation application was easy to download
  • 85 percent expressed satisfaction with the audio and video quality of the application

The study found that telemedicine visits cut wait times from about a half hour to just two minutes, while time spent with the physician was reduced from more than an hour to about 15 minutes. Telemedicine visits also saved families $50 in costs per visit and 85 miles of driving as well as $24 per patient in labor cost.

The researchers concluded that telemedicine can be used in a sports medicine setting to provide cost-effective care while maintaining high levels of patient satisfaction. A 2018 article published by mHealth Intelligence quoted orthopedic surgeon Alfred Atanda Jr., MD,the lead author of the study:

“Pediatric sports medicine is well suited for these patients because parents can get immediate access to a sports medicine provider without having to miss work or remove their child from school… “In many instances, the parents are merely seeking information, guidance and advice about their child’s injury that can be often conveyed via the telemedicine platform without the need for special equipment. Moreover, the athletes themselves are often well-versed in current technology and can assist their parents with the technical aspects of the telemedicine visit (i.e., application download and camera/microphone adjustment).”

Telemedicine can be an effective option to treat minor sports injuries such as muscle strains, knee injuries such as ligament sprains, tendonitis and bursitis. These conditions do not generally require a visit to the emergency department (ED) or urgent care center. A virtual sports clinic consult is useful for simple follow-ups, routine orthopedic post-ops, surgical discussions, wound checks, and MRI/lab result reviews. Telemedicine also improves clinical coordination between the primary care physician and the orthopedic specialist.

MoonlightOtho.com, an Orthopedic-specific telehealth practice, offers New Patient Visits, Return Visits, Lab/MRI Reviews, Post-Operative Visits, Second Opinions and Concierge Level Visits, including a Phone Call-Only Visit. Patients seen at MoonlightOrtho can expect high quality, concierge-style care, during their e-visit, and can access the telehealth provider of choice via the MoonlightOrtho.com website on a desktop computer, tablet, or smartphone. Patients can then use the platform to search for providers by name, or by their location of pain/symptoms and the state they live in. After requesting a telemedicine e-visit online, the next step is to enter the types of symptoms and problems they’re experiencing with their joint on a short medical questionnaire and upload a brief video.

Asynchronous Video Telecommunication involves store-and-forward solutions that allow healthcare providers to share patient medical data (lab results, images, videos, records) with a specialist at another location. With asynchronous telemedicine, patients upload a short, self video to their medical chart at a time convenient to them. Patients can explain their symptoms in detail on the video. The video and patient’s medical questionnaire will be reviewed later.

In the study published in Journal of ISAKOS, the researchers stated that telemedicine can serve as a mechanism to deliver healthcare to select patients remotely, but that it was suitable only in the appropriate clinical scenario and not always a substitute for traditional, in-person visits. However, while certain treatments need to be done in-person, a virtual online consultation is a great option forgetting a diagnosis before the physical office visit.