Pre-surgery evaluations by telephone decrease travel and cost for families of children with cerebral palsy

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Introduction: Children with cerebral palsy need highly specialized care. This can be very burdensome for families, particularly in large rural states, due to the need for long-distance travel to appointments. In this study, children undergoing the selective percutaneous myofascial lengthening surgery utilized a telephone-based telemedicine evaluation to assess for surgical eligibility. The goal was to avoid a separate preoperative clinic visit weeks before the surgery. If possible, eligibility was determined by telephone, and then, the patient could be scheduled for a clinic visit and possible surgery the next day, saving the family a trip. The purposes of the study were to calculate estimated reductions in miles traveled, in travel expenses, and in carbon emissions and to determine whether the telephone assessment was accurate and effective in determining eligibility for surgery. Methods: From 2010 to 2012, 279 patients were retrospectively reviewed, and of those, 161 mailed four-page questionnaire and anteroposterior pelvis X-ray followed by a telephone conference. Geographic information system methods were used to geocode patients by location. Savings in mileage and travel costs were calculated. From 2014 to 2015, 195 patients were additionally studied to determine accuracy and effectiveness. Results: The telephone prescreening method saved 106,070 miles in transportation over 3 years, a 38% reduction with US$55,326 in savings. Each family saved an average of 658 (standard deviation = 340) miles of travel and US$343.64 (standard deviation = US$178) in travel expenses. For each increase of 10 miles in distance from the health center, the odds of a patient utilizing telephone screening increased by 10% (odds ratio: 1.101, 95% confidence interval: 1.073–1.129, p < 0.001). After the telephone prescreening, 86% were determined to be likely candidates for the procedure. For 14%, a clinic visit only was scheduled, and they were not scheduled for surgery. Conclusion: Families seeking specialized surgical care for their disabled children particularly benefited from this approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSAGE Open Medicine
StatePublished - Jul 18 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Telemedicine
  • cerebral palsy
  • selective percutaneous myofascial lengthening
  • surgery
  • telehealth
  • telephone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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