COVID-19: pivoting from in-person to virtual orthopedic surgical evaluation

COVID-19: pivoting from in-person to virtual orthopedic surgical evaluation

Can J Surg 2021;64(1):E101-E102 | PDF

Andrew Roberts, BSc; Geoffrey H.F. Johnston, MD, MBA; Colin Landells, MD


In March 2020, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic necessitated substantial downscaling of office-based orthopedic surgical practice. To address the ongoing need for patient assessment, surgical practices pivoted from in-person appointments to a virtual platform. Patients (n = 1823), contacted by telephone (82%) or by video (18%), judged this new approach as excellent or very good in 71% of telephone contacts, and in 84% of those successfully interviewed by video. For future meetings, 4 of 5 patients preferred virtual rather than in-person contact. Patients whose round-trip travel time for in-person appointments was under 2 hours were twice as likely to prefer future in-person contact as those more than 2 hours away. Patients who had far to travel or who used walking aids were more likely to travel accompanied. Acknowledging that patients value both videoconferencing and telephone contact, surgeons should offer virtual visits as an alternative to in-person assessments. Patients need to have access to reliable Internet. Finally, telemedicine is environmentally friendly.

Accepted January 11, 2021

Acknowledgements: The authors thank Amy McCoy for her invaluable technical expertise in preparing the questionnaire for online completion, as well as its distribution, receipt and collation.

Affiliations: From the Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC (Roberts, Johnston, Landells).

Competing interests: None declared.

Contributors: All authors contributed substantially to the conception, writing and revision of this article and approved the final version for publication.

Content licence: This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided that the original publication is properly cited, the use is noncommercial (i.e., research or educational use), and no modifications or adaptations are made. See:

DOI: 10.1503/cjs.022520

Correspondence to: G.H.F. Johnston, c/o RebalanceMD, 104-3551 Blanshard St, Victoria BC V8Z 0B9,