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Telemedicine Expansion Gives Parents More Options

Evening hours help kids avoid the ED for routine childhood ailments

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Parents who need after-hours healthcare for their children don’t need to turn to the Emergency Department (ED) for common childhood illnesses, such as ear infections and sore throats. The Health-e-Access Telemedicine Program has expanded its hours to include every weekday evening and Saturday morning at locations within some of the most impoverished neighborhoods in Rochester, making it not only possible but also very convenient for children to visit the doctor and avoid a costly trip to the ED.

The program, based at Golisano Children’s Hospital at the University of Rochester Medical Center, allows information to be transmitted from a specialized camera that provides diagnostic-quality images of the ear drum, throat, eyes and skin. In addition, an electronic stethoscope captures lung and heart sounds and videoconferencing allows face-to-face communication. Doctors, hopefully at the child’s own pediatric or family medicine practice, then make a diagnosis and prescribe treatments.

“Parents often take their children to the Emergency Department because they can’t miss work to take their children to the doctor’s office the next day,” said Kenneth McConnochie, M.D., M.P.H., the program’s director and a professor of Pediatrics at Golisano Children’s Hospital. “We hope this gives the many, many parents struggling to balance family and work responsibilities a more convenient, less time-consuming and less expensive way to get their children the care they need.”

The program seeks to connect patients with their own providers, and several city pediatric and family medicine practices have already signed on to the expanded hours. Parents should call their own practice to arrange the after-hours telemedicine visit. The hours and locations are as follows:

·    4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at Wilson Commencement Park, 251 Joseph Ave.

·    4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Young Mothers program at 30 Hart St.

·    4 to 8 p.m. Monday and 9 to 1 p.m. Saturday at Grace United Church, 121 Driving Park Ave.

If parents run into trouble arranging the visit, they can page Health-e-Access staff at (585) 220-2890 for help.

Health-e-Access has almost eight years of experience and more than 7,000 visits in child care programs and elementary schools. It has demonstrated that most illnesses prompting office and emergency department visits can be well managed through telemedicine. In fact, a recent community-wide study found that nearly 28 percent of all visits to the pediatric emergency department could have been replaced with a more cost-effective telemedicine visit.  For the over 3,000 children with telemedicine access from child care or schools over the eight years of operation, actual reduction in emergency visits has been 22 percent. The program also has shown that providers obtain diagnostic-quality information by telemedicine that is as good as or better than information obtained in person.

Health-e-Access, launched in May 2001 from Golisano Children’s Hospital, is the nation’s largest telemedicine network focused on direct patient access from neighborhood sites (e.g., child care, schools, community centers). The program has more than halved sick-leave absences among children and helped parents avoid taking significant amounts of time-off to care for their sick children.

McConnochie was a founder shareholder of Tel-e-Atrics, Inc., which supplies hardware, support services, and the FDA-registered software that powers Health-e-Access, and may receive future compensation from the company.

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