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The use of telemedicine in peripheral artery disease and limb salvage


Chronic limb-threatening ischemia represents the morbid end stage of severe peripheral artery disease, with significant impact on patient quality of life. Early diagnosis of arterial insufficiency and referral for vascular intervention are essential for successful limb salvage. Disparate outcomes have been reported among patients residing in rural areas due to decreased access to care. Remote telemedicine outreach programs represent an opportunity to improve access to care in these rural communities. Establishment of a telehealth program requires identification of communities most in need of specialty care. After locating an ideal site, collaboration with local providers is necessary to develop a program that meets the specific needs of providers and patients. Surgeon guidance in development of screening and management algorithms ensures that patients obtain care reliably and with adjustments as needed to suit the referring provider, the patient, and the specialist. Telehealth evaluations can limit the financial burden associated with travel, while ensuring access to higher levels of care than are available in the patients' immediate area. Multiple barriers to telehealth exist. These include limited reimbursement, local provider resistance to new referral patterns, lack of in-person interaction and evaluation, and the inability to do a physical examination. Improved reimbursement models have made telehealth feasible, although care must be taken to ensure that practice patterns complement existing resources and are designed in a way that omits the need for in-person evaluation until the time of specialist intervention. Telemedicine is an underused tool in the arsenal of vascular surgeons. Targeted telehealth programs aid in increasing patient access to expert-level care, thereby improving health disparities that exist in rural populations.

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