Background: Digital health is commonly utilized for surgical evaluation, however little is known regarding the relative effectiveness of audio-only and video-based encounters. Methods: A retrospective analysis of all patients undergoing preoperative digital health encounters at a hernia center from March 2020–May 2021 was conducted. Visit types were dichotomized to audio-only and video-based encounters. Downstream care utilization and visit-specific outcomes were analyzed. Results: 204 preoperative digital health encounters were conducted during the study period. Audio-only encounters were more commonly performed for patients classified as older and rural. Supplemental in-person examinations were required among 13.5% and 4.0% of new- and established-patient encounters, respectively, with no significant difference between audio-only and video-based assessments. Finalized operative plans were coordinated for 43.6% of patients, with no significant difference among groups. Conclusions: Patients being evaluated with audio-only encounters are more likely to be older and reside in rural settings, yet demonstrate no significant difference in downstream care utilization and clinic encounter outcomes relative to those being evaluated via video-based assessment. Enabling audio-only surgical consultations may minimize disparities in digital care.
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