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Parent Experience and Cost Savings Associated With a Novel Tele-physiatry Program for Children Living in Rural and Underserved Communities

Published:August 20, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apmr.2021.07.807

      Abstract

      Objective

      The aim of this study was to investigate parent and therapist experience and cost savings from the payer perspective associated with a novel tele-physiatry program for children living in rural and underserved communities.

      Design

      We designed a noninferiority, cluster-randomized crossover study at 4 school-based clinics to evaluate parent experience and perceived quality of care between a telemedicine-based approach in which the physiatrist conducts the visit remotely with an in-person therapist and a traditional in-person physiatrist clinic.

      Setting

      Four school-based clinics in Northern California.

      Participants

      A total of 268 encounters (124 telemedicine and 144 in-person) were completed by 200 unique patients (N=200).

      Interventions

      Not applicable.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Parent and therapist experience scores.

      Results

      For parents and therapists, experience and perceived quality of care were high with no significant differences between telemedicine and in-person encounters. For parents whose children received a telemedicine encounter, 40 (54.8%) reported no preference for their child's subsequent encounter, 21 (28.8%) preferred a physiatrist telemedicine visit, and 12 (16.4%) preferred a physiatrist in-person visit. From the payer perspective, costs were $100 higher for in-person clinics owing to physician mileage reimbursement.

      Conclusions

      We found that school-based tele-physiatry for children with special health care needs is not inferior to in-person encounters with regard to parent and provider experience and perceived quality of care. Tele-physiatry was also associated with an average cost savings of $100 per clinic to the payer.

      Keywords

      List of abbreviations:

      AMD (adjusted mean difference), CCS (California Children's Services), CI (confidence interval), MTP (Medical Therapy Program), MTU (Medical Therapy Unit)
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