Telemedicine may increase access to medical genetics care. However, in the pediatric setting, how telemedicine may affect the diagnostic rate is unknown, partially because of the perceived importance of the dysmorphology physical examination. We studied the clinical effectiveness of telemedicine for patients with suspected or confirmed genetic conditions.
We conducted a retrospective cohort study of outpatient encounters before and after the widespread implementation of telemedicine (N = 5854). Visit types, diagnoses, patient demographic characteristics, and laboratory data were acquired from the electronic health record. Patient satisfaction was assessed through survey responses. New molecular diagnosis was the primary end point.
Patients seen by telemedicine were more likely to report non-Hispanic White ancestry, prefer to speak English, live in zip codes with higher median incomes, and have commercial insurance (all P < .01). Genetic testing was recommended for more patients evaluated by telemedicine than in person (79.5% vs 70.9%; P < .001). Patients seen in person were more likely to have a sample collected, resulting in similar test completion rates (telemedicine, 51.2%; in person, 55.1%; P = .09). There was no significant difference in molecular diagnosis rate between visit modalities (telemedicine, 13.8%; in person, 12.4%; P = .40).
Telemedicine and traditional in-person evaluation resulted in similar molecular diagnosis rates. However, improved methodologies for remote sample collection may be required. This study reveals the feasibility of telemedicine in a large academic medical genetics practice and is applicable to other pediatric specialties with perceived importance of physical examination.