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December 17,
2001

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Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Pediatricians make 'virtual' house calls

Telehealth

In a Telehealth clinic at the Volunteers of America Children's Center on Lake Avenue, Demina Stewart, a trained staff nurse, uses an otoscope that has been fitted with a camera to examine 4-year-old Michaela Lehr's eardrum. The camera relays an image of the eardrum to the center's computer, allowing the doctor to see--in nearly real-time, streaming video--what he or she would see during an office visit.

Physicians at Strong Children's Hospital are using technology to revolutionize the way ill and injured children are examined, diagnosed, and treated.

All part of the Rochester Child Care Telehealth Access Network, the program makes it possible for doctors to use high-tech computer equipment to examine and diagnose children who are located miles away at participating child care centers. The initiative reduces the need for visits to the doctor's office and ensures that children who need medical care receive it in a timely fashion.

"We're using technology that has the potential to change the way we practice medicine," says Neil Herendeen, a pediatrician at Strong Children's Hospital and medical director of the telemedicine program.

"Although it may seem futuristic to some, the technology is available to us now. This is a glimpse into the future of medicine."

Using specialized medical equipment fitted with video and audio devices, doctors can diagnose illnesses such as skin disorders and ear infections and hear lung sounds that are essential for managing asthma.

"Using telemedicine, we do everything we normally would except touch the child," Herendeen says. "We rely on the nurses to be our hands."

Doctors say the use of telemedicine reduces the need for after-hours doctor's appointments or visits to the emergency department, which may improve a child's health and reduce financial and social costs associated with health care.

Part of a communitywide effort, the network is possible because of a partnership between public and private organizations, support from the Medical Center, and funding from a $330,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The Telehealth program supports the vision of Project Believe, the Medical Center's initiative to make Rochester the healthiest community in America by 2020.



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