Telemedicine provides a gateway to specialty care that, otherwise, patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) could have difficulty accessing. Studies have shown that telemedicine provides a valid alternative to in-person visits. There are limited data on the strengths and limitations of telemedicine from the perspective of MS providers.
After reviewing the literature and pilot testing questions about telemedicine in provider focus groups, a 34-question survey was created on the Qualtrics web platform. A stratified sample of MS providers throughout the United States was recruited to participate. The survey initiated in November 2019 and closed in November 2020.
Survey participants (N = 94) included neurologists (43.0%), advanced practice providers (28.0%), nurses (14.0%), mental health providers (7.0%), social workers (3.0%), rehabilitation providers (4.0%), and pharmacists (1.0%). Clinical video telemedicine (CVT) was the most commonly used platform, and 76.6% of respondents indicated that they used telemedicine to care for patients with MS. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of telemedicine use increased from 44.4% to 84.2%. Most health care providers (93.0%) were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their most recent telemedicine visit, and 94.4% of providers reported a desire to continue using telemedicine, although 84.6% found it difficult to perform a full examination.
There was a large uptick in the use of telemedicine when the COVID-19 pandemic forced clinics to cease in-person visits. Providers predominantly used CVT; store-and-forward telemedicine and remote patient monitoring have fewer technical issues than CVT and seem to be underused.