Telemedicine is particularly helpful for rural emergency departments who only see a handful of pediatric cases each year. According to a recent Reuters article, guidelines on how to care for children in the emergency department is also lacking.
James Marcin, MD, the senior author of the Critical Care Medicine study, told Reuters Health, “for a three-month-old that comes in for wheezing or for a six-month-old that comes in for a fever, there are very few evidence-based guidelines.”
In an effort to study the benefits of telemedicine, Marcin and his colleagues installed telemedicine systems in five rural emergency departments which were linked to the University of California Davis Children’s Hospital pediatric intensive care unit. The rural EDs used the system to consult with the UC Davis critical care doctor who was on duty.
The team compiled 320 cases over the span of four years, which included the two years before and after the telemedicine system was installed. Two independent pediatric critical care specialists then rated the quality of care provided in each of the cases without knowing whether telemedicine had been used. The average quality score for the telemedicine cases was higher than the scores for cases when telephone conferencing was used as well as when there was no consultation. The telemedicine cases also received higher satisfaction scores from parents and perceived quality scores from the referring physicians.
This study further proves that telemedicine is valuable tool for rural providers. Often rural healthcare organizations do not have the volume or the resources to justify having specialists on-site. Having real-time access to specialists via video conferencing is the next best thing. What’s more, it saves patients the inconvenience and the added cost of being transferred to a larger facility in a more densely populated area.
Perhaps these results can convince other rural providers that investing in telemedicine is worth the price to deliver top-quality care, improve patient satisfaction, and save on transportation costs associated with temporary staffing solutions.