Musculoskeletal Telemedicine Trends Preceding the COVID-19 Pandemic and Potential Implications of Rapid Telemedicine Expansion

Sara N. Kiani, Logan D. Cho, Jashvant Poeran, Lauren Wilson, Haoyan Zhong, Madhu Mazumdar, Jiabin Liu, Alejandro Gonzalez Della Valle, Stavros G. Memtsoudis

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Introduction. Telemedicine was rapidly deployed at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Little has been published on telemedicine in musculoskeletal care prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. This study is aimed at characterizing trends in telemedicine for musculoskeletal care preceding the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods. This retrospective study used insurance claims from the Truven MarketScan database. Musculoskeletal-specific outpatient visits from 2014 to 2018 were identified using the musculoskeletal major diagnostic category ICD-10 codes. Telemedicine visits were categorized using CPT codes and Healthcare Common Procedure Coding Systems. We described annual trends in telemedicine in the overall dataset and by diagnosis grouping. Multivariable logistic regression modeling estimated the association between patient-specific and telemedicine visit variables and telemedicine utilization. Results. There were 36,672 musculoskeletal-specific telemedicine visits identified (0.020% of all musculoskeletal visits). Overall, telemedicine utilization increased over the study period (0% in 2014 to 0.05% in 2018). Orthopedic surgeons had fewer telemedicine visits than primary care providers (OR 0.57, 95% CI 0.55-0.59). The proportion of unique patients utilizing telemedicine in 2018 was higher in the south (OR 2.28, 95% CI 2.19-2.38) and west (OR 5.58, 95% CI 5.36-5.81) compared to the northeast. Those with increased comorbidities and lower incomes and living in rural areas had lower rates of telemedicine utilization. Conclusions. From 2014 to 2018, there was an increase in telemedicine utilization for musculoskeletal visits, in part due to insurance reimbursement and telemedicine regulation. Despite this increase, the rates of telemedicine utilization are still lowest in some of the groups that could derive the most benefit from these services. Establishing this baseline is important for assessing how the roll-out of telemedicine during the pandemic impacted how/which patients and providers are utilizing telemedicine today.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9900145
JournalInternational Journal of Telemedicine and Applications
StatePublished - 2023


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