Telemedicine in neurosurgery: lessons learned from a systematic review of the literature for the COVID-19 era and beyond

Daniel G. Eichberg, Gregory W. Basil, Long Di, Ashish H. Shah, Evan M. Luther, Victor M. Lu, Maggy Perez-Dickens, Ricardo J. Komotar, Allan D. Levi, Michael E. Ivan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Evolving requirements for patient and physician safety and rapid regulatory changes have stimulated interest in neurosurgical telemedicine in the COVID-19 era. OBJECTIVE: To conduct a systematic literature review investigating treatment of neurosurgical patients via telemedicine, and to evaluate barriers and challenges. Additionally, we review recent regulatory changes that affect telemedicine in neurosurgery, and our institution’s initial experience. METHODS: A systematic review was performed including all studies investigating success regarding treatment of neurosurgical patients via telemedicine. We reviewed our department’s outpatient clinic billing records after telemedicine was implemented from 3/23/2020 to 4/6/2020 and reviewed modifier 95 inclusion to determine the number of face-to-face and telemedicine visits, as well as breakdown of weekly telemedicine clinic visits by subspecialty. RESULTS: A total of 52 studies (25 prospective and 27 retrospective) with 45 801 patients were analyzed. A total of 13 studies were conducted in the United States and 39 in foreign countries. Patient management was successful via telemedicine in 99.6% of cases. Telemedicine visits failed in 162 cases, 81.5% of which were due to technology failure, and 18.5% of which were due to patients requiring further face-to-face evaluation or treatment. A total of 16 studies compared telemedicine encounters to alternative patient encounter mediums; telemedicine was equivalent or superior in 15 studies. From 3/23/2020 to 4/6/2020, our department had 122 telemedicine visits (65.9%) and 63 face-to-face visits (34.1%). About 94.3% of telemedicine visits were billed using face-to-face procedural codes. CONCLUSION: Neurosurgical telemedicine encounters appear promising in resource-scarce times, such as during global pandemics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E1-E12
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Health policy
  • Neurosurgery
  • Stroke
  • Telehealth
  • Telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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