Caroline Reinke, MD, FACS, on the Effectiveness of Virtual Follow-up Visits

Researchers found that patients who participated in virtual follow-up visits benefitted by spending less time waiting at and traveling to the clinic for in-person appointments.

According to research presented at the virtual American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress 2020, surgical patients who participate in virtual follow-up visits after their operations spend a comparable amount of time with surgical team members as those who meet face-to-face.

Further, researchers found these patients also benefit by spending less time waiting at and traveling to the clinic for in-person appointments.

“I think it’s really valuable for patients to understand that, in the virtual space scenario, they are still going to get quality time with their surgical team,” lead study author Caroline Reinke, MD, FACS, associate professor of surgery at Atrium Health in Charlotte, NC, said in a press release. “A virtual appointment does not shorten that time, and there is still an ability to answer questions, connect, and address ongoing medical care.”

The non-inferiority, randomized, controlled trial included more than 400 patients who underwent laparoscopic appendectomy or cholecystectomy at 2 hospitals in Charlotte, NC. Participants were randomized 2:1 to a post-discharge virtual visit or to an in-person visit.

The investigators tracked the total time patients spent checking in, waiting in the waiting room and exam room, meeting with their surgical team member, and being discharged following the exam. For in-person visits, on-site waiting time and an estimated drive time was factored into the overall time commitment. Of note, only 64% of patients completed the follow-up visit.

Overall, the results demonstrated that the total clinic time was longer for in-person visits than virtual visits (58 minutes vs 19 minutes); however, patients in both groups spent the same amount of face time with a surgical team member (8.3 minutes vs 8.2 minutes) discussing their post-operative recovery.

In an interview with CancerNetwork®, Reinke discussed the study findings further and how she believes telehealth platforms will continue to change health care moving forward.

This segment comes from the CancerNetwork® portion of the MJH Life Sciences Medical World News, airing daily on all MJH Life Sciences channels.


Virtual follow-up care is more convenient and just as beneficial to surgical patients as in-person care [news release]. Chicago. Published October 3, 2020. Accessed October 7, 2020.