How is Orthopaedic Surgery Improving Access for its Patients?

The short answer from Orthopaedic Surgery Chairman Michael A. Mont, MD

What is the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery doing to make care more convenient for patients?

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Improving access is important in healthcare. One thing we have done in our department is to fully embrace virtual visits, an initiative promoted throughout Cleveland Clinic by our CEO, Dr. Toby Cosgrove. We facetiously call it “speed dating,” but in reality it’s a wonderful way to save many patients valuable time by allowing us to “see” and evaluate them remotely.

We all have patients who live several hours away. They drive two hours, park and come up to the department. The actual visit takes less than an hour. Then they go back to the parking garage and trek back home. For a short visit—maybe a postoperative check—they’ve spent close to five hours of their time.

Virtual visits on Skype or FaceTime® allow us to see them, and them to see us. With today’s advanced communications technology, they can show us their knee or hip, and we can clearly see how their wound looks and how they walk, for instance.

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It is a massive time- and cost-saver for our patients. More than 50 practitioners in our department are using virtual visits, and an additional 20 or 30 have signed up to start.

Virtual visits don’t always save us time; we spend the same amount of time with the patient as we would if they were here in person in the office. But if the patient doesn’t have to spend five or six hours of their time for that 15- or 30-minute appointment, I think it’s great. Of course, virtual visits are an even better alternative for patients who would otherwise need to fly here to see us.

I see virtual visits as a trend that will continue to expand, particularly as the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and various insurance companies realize its value. That can’t happen soon enough.