Background: COVID-19 has mandated rapid adoption of telehealth for surgical care. However, many surgical providers may be unfamiliar with telehealth. This study evaluates the perspectives of surgical providers practicing telehealth care during COVID-19 to help identify targets for surgical telehealth optimization. Materials and methods: At a single tertiary care center with telehealth capabilities, all department of surgery providers (attending surgeons, residents, fellows, and advanced practice providers) were emailed a voluntary survey focused on telehealth during the pandemic. Descriptive statistics and Mann–Whitney U analyses were performed as appropriate on responses. Text responses were thematically coded to identify key concepts. Results: The completion rate was 41.3% (145/351). Providers reported increased telehealth usage relative to the pandemic (P < 0.001). Of respondents, 80% (116/145) had no formal telehealth training. Providers estimated that new patient video visits required less time than traditional visits (P = 0.001). Satisfaction was high for several aspects of video visits. Comparatively lower satisfaction scores were reported for the ability to perform physical exams (sensitive and nonsensitive) and to break bad news. The largest barriers to effective video visits were limited physical exams (55.6%; 45/81) and lack of provider or patient internet access/equipment/connection (34.6%; 28/81). Other barriers included ineffective communication and difficulty with fostering rapport. Concerns regarding video-to-telephone visit conversion were loss of physical exam/visual cues (34.3%; 24/70), less personal interactions (18.6%; 13/70), and reduced efficiency (18.6%; 13/70). Conclusions: Telehealth remains a new experience for surgical providers despite its expansion. Optimization strategies should target technology barriers and include specialized virtual exam and communication training.
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