Telehealth in Plastic Surgery

A Veterans Affairs Hospital Perspective

Stephanie Douglas, MD; Erik Geiger, MD; Andrew McGregor, MD; Amanda Norwich, MD; Deena Abbate, RN; Henry Hsia, MD; Deepak Narayan, MD


Plast Reconstr Surg Glob Open. 2018;6(10):e1840 

In This Article


Forty-one patients (40 male) of 44 eligible patients elected to participate. The mean age was 71.2 years (SD, 12.4 years). Presenting problems included cutaneous malignancy, lipoma, and carpal tunnel syndrome (Table 1).

By traveling to their CBOC instead of the central VA hospital, patients saved 50–100 miles of travel in each direction. Patients named decreased distance traveled, convenience of location, and decreased travel time as factors influencing their desire to participate in CVT.

Patients rated the overall quality of interaction with their health care provider 9.2/10, their ability to communicate 9.3/10, and their overall satisfaction 9.2/10. Patients rated the video and sound quality 8.6/10 and 9.0/10, respectively (Figure 1). One CVT patient had to return for an in-person visit due to poor visualization of a squamous cell carcinoma of the hand.

Figure 1.

Results of telehealth survey (bar graph).

Thirty-four of 41 patients (83%) stated that they would prefer telehealth consultation to in-person visits for future plastic surgery issues, and 7 patients (17%) said they would prefer an in-person visit. Anecdotal reasons were difficulty hearing and that it was "too fancy from a technology standpoint." As these were patients who had been seen by their primary care physician at the VA, it was assumed they were familiar with a standard in-person visit. Patient comments about the CVT program included that it "worked very well" and "saved time in many ways, especially travel time and waiting time." Additionally, discussion with the provider in this series ensured there was no inconvenience providing telemedicine services.