University of Rochester

Currents--University of Rochester newspaper

Telemed program grows, adds sites

A telemedicine program based at the Medical Center that uses the Internet to connect pediatricians with sick children at local child care centers will soon expand its network through the help of funding from two federal agencies. Known as Health-e-Access, the program will grow from seven sites to 22, doubling the number of participating child care centers and providing 10 city and suburban elementary schools with service.

In addition, nine private-practice pediatric offices will be added to the network, allowing children to be treated by their family pediatrician via the Internet. The program is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, offering thousands of children at different locations access to pediatricians.

The expansion, already under way, is bolstered by a new report published in the May 2 issue of the journal Pediatrics that shows the program has substantially reduced the number of sick-leave absences among children. The report also shows that parents with children participating in Health-e-Access avoided taking significant time off from work to care for their children.

The program began in May 2001 at seven sites in Rochester, making it possible for trained child care providers to send live video and audio to pediatricians at Golisano Children's Hospital. The doctors use two-way video teleconferencing to have real-time interactions with children. Diagnostic-quality images of the ear drum, throat, eyes, and skin--areas most affected by common childhood illnesses--are transmitted from a specialized camera. In addition, an electronic stethoscope captures high-quality lung and heart sounds.

Doctors at the remote location then make a diagnosis, prescribe treatments, and provide a treatment report to the child's pediatrician when applicable. Prescriptions are delivered directly to the center the same day to speed treatment.

Kenneth McConnochie, professor of pediatrics and founder of the Health-e-Access program, says this expansion could significantly change the way pediatric offices nationwide diagnose and treat children suffering from common illnesses.

"Our experience with more than 2,200 telemedicine visits indicates that telemedicine can effectively treat almost all problems that arise in child care settings," says McConnochie. "It is a highly efficient way to diagnose and manage the common childhood illnesses that many children get in child care centers or schools, with the added benefit of allowing working parents to stay on the job if they choose.

"Now, by integrating primary care doctors into the Health-e-Access network, and having it available where children spend the majority of their time, such as schools and child care centers, we have the potential to reshape the way our nation's pediatric offices provide care for very common childhood illnesses, the type that account for nearly 75 percent of all pediatric office visits for illness."

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