A study conducted by Chia-Chun Chiang, MD, and colleagues shows that telemedicine has enabled care for many patients with headaches during the COVID-19 period. Since March 2020, many health care organizations in the US have canceled optional, nonurgent procedures and clinics in reaction to the COVID-19 emergency. Telemedicine was fast adopted and has now developed into an essential healthcare tool. It reduces the physical and geographic barriers, prevents the spread of the virus, and saves personal protective equipment.
The researchers did an online survey to assess the patients’ perspectives regarding headache care using telemedicine throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and the desire of patients to continue using telemedicine even after the pandemic ends. The survey had 1172 respondents with a mean age of 45.9 years. Most of the respondents (86.8%) were women.
The survey participants were asked if they utilized telemedicine appointments for their headache problems during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Most patients (57.5%) said yes, while the rest said no. Among those who said no, 56.1% said they did not have a reason for telemedicine visits, while 25.2% reported they did not know about the option. 85.5% of those who said yes used telemedicine for follow-up headache care. The results of the survey exhibited that patients were satisfied with the use of telemedicine for headache treatment. 62.1% reported their experience as very good, and 20.7% said it is good.
The results show that telemedicine offers patients a chance to better control their headache problems without the need to travel and expose themselves to the risk of getting COVID-19.
The researchers also noted various barriers to care that manifested in the study results. Respondents who did not use telemedicine mentioned different reasons, including not being aware of the telemedicine option, utilizing telemedicine but not being provided with the opportunity by their healthcare provider, telemedicine not being covered by insurance, and not having the required technology to connect with providers.
Chiang highlighted various steps to address these challenges. These steps include expanding insurance coverage for telemedicine even after the end of the pandemic and promoting telemedicine so that patients can know it is an available option to them. She also stated that telemedicine is restrained to patients with a reliable internet connection and that internet access is necessary while working to enhance telemedicine headache care.