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In rural ERs, kids get better care with telemedicine

August 13, 2013 | Telepresence Options

child er videoconferencing

Story by Phyllis Brown / UC Davis

After a live videoconference with a specialist, rural emergency room physicians are more likely to adjust diagnosis and course of treatment for injured children, research shows.

The use of technology to link far-distant practitioners has been steadily increasing in the US, particularly as a tool to provide rural communities with access to specialty physicians.

"The bottom line is that this readily available technology can and should be used to improve the quality of care delivered to critically ill children when there are no pediatric specialists available in their own communities," says James Marcin, director of the Children's Hospital Pediatric Telemedicine Program at the University of California, Davis.

"People say a picture is worth a thousand words," says Marcin, professor of pediatrics. "With medicine, video conferencing brings us right to the bedside, allowing us to see what's happening and collaborate with on-site doctors to provide the best possible care to our patients."

Despite the expansion of telemedicine, studies of its effect on the quality of medical care remain scarce, with publications mostly limited to anecdotal reports or issues of technological feasibility and its potential to reduce health care costs.

For the new study, published online inCritical Care Medicine,researchers sought to measure the impact of telemedicine consultations compared to other modes of treatment, such as telephone consultations or treatment without consultations.

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