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.
- Disabled children
- Healthcare disparities
- Physical medicine and rehabilitation
- Rural populations, Telemedicine
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation