Veterans Affairs Telemedicine: Bringing Urologic Care to Remote Clinics

OBJECTIVE - To report the use of telemedicine to deliver general urologic care to remote locations within the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. We describe the diagnoses managed, patient satisfaction, safety, and benefit to patients in terms of saved travel time and expense.

METHODS - We conducted a retrospective chart review examining care delivered through urology telemedicine clinics over a 6-month period. We examined the urologic conditions, patient satisfaction, and emergency department visits within 30 days of the visit. We estimated patient benefit by calculating travel distance and time and the saved travel-associated costs using Google Maps and US Census income data.

RESULTS - Ninety-seven unique telemedicine visits were conducted and a total of 171 urologic diseases were assessed. The most common conditions were lower urinary tract symptoms (35%), elevated prostate-specific antigen level (15%), and prostate cancer (14%). One patient was seen in the emergency department within 30 days with an unpreventable urologic complaint. Patient satisfaction was "very good" to "excellent" in 95% of cases, and 97% would refer another veteran to the urology telemedicine clinic. Patients saved an average of 277 travel miles, 290 minutes of travel time, $67 in travel expenses, and $126 in lost opportunity cost.

CONCLUSIONS - Telemedicine was successfully and safely used to evaluate and treat a wide range of urologic conditions within the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, and saves patients nearly 5 hours and up to $193 per visit. Further investigation of the potential of telemedicine for the delivery of urologic care in a cost-effective manner is warranted.

Urology. 2015 Jul 11. pii: S0090-4295(15)00427-6. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2015.04.038. [Epub ahead of print]

Chu S1, Boxer R2, Madison P3, Kleinman L3, Skolarus T4, Altman L3, Bennett C2, Shelton J2.

1 Department of Urology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA.
2 Department of Urology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA; Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA.
3 Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA.
4 Department of Urology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; HSR&D Center for Health Communications Research, Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI.

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