BACKGROUND: Global use of telemedicine has increased rapidly during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic to bridge the gap in existing health care services . Intercontinental trends in neurosurgeons' perception and practices of telemedicine have been sparingly reported .
METHODS: We conducted an online anonymized and validated survey using a structured questionnaire to gain insight into neurosurgeons' experience with telemedicine across various continents and rated its usefulness on a 5-point Likert scale .
RESULTS: We received 286 responses across 5 continents . There was a trend to support a major paradigm shift favoring teleconsultations during the COVID-19 pandemic in respondents from North America (P = 0.06). Signed prescriptions were e-mailed along with video-based teleconsultations preferentially in Europe and North America . In comparison, audio- or text-based teleconsultations along with unsigned prescriptions were prevalent in Asia and Africa (P = 0.0005). Acceptability and perceived usefulness for telemedicine during the pandemic were similar across the globe, regardless of neurosurgeons' experience (mean satisfaction score 3.72 ± 1.09; P = 0.62). A majority of neurosurgeons from Asia and South America complained of difficulties during teleconsultations owing to lack of appropriate infrastructure, internet connectivity/prescription-related issues, and potential risk of litigation (P = 0.0005). Approximately 46% of neurosurgeons, predominantly from Europe and North America, thought that telemedicine could play a vital role in clinical practice even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides (mean satisfaction score 3.26 ± 1.16; P = 0.007).
CONCLUSIONS: Telemedicine in neurosurgery is a viable alternative to physical outpatient services during the COVID-19 pandemic and could potentially play a vital role after the pandemic.