Patient Care

Telemedicine Program Wins Prestigious AHA National Award

Jul. 5, 2010
Health-E-Access is one of 5 community health programs to receive honor

The American Hospital Association today announced that the University of Rochester Medical Center’s pediatric telemedicine program, Health-e-Access, will receive a prestigious AHA NOVA Award at its annual Health Forum Leadership Summit in San Diego, Calif., on July 24. The award honors hospital-community collaborations that improve community health.

Health-e-Access, which is based at URMC’s Golisano Children’s Hospital, is one of five programs nationwide that will be honored at a special ceremony at the summit.

Rich Umbdenstock, AHA president and CEO, said “This year’s AHA NOVA Award winners showcase the power of collaboration and the positive community health changes that can be made when organizations work together. “From telemedicine for children to creating a coverage network for uninsured adults, the hospitals leading these programs have successfully met common health challenges by partnering with the community.”

The AHA NOVA Award is the second national award Health-e-Access has received over the last three months. It was one of three programs nationwide to receive a Leadership Award for Community Benefit Excellence from VHA, Inc., a national network of not-for-profit health care organizations dedicated to the provision of quality care to their communities.

Heath-e-Access was launched in May 2001 as a novel way to use a web-based telemedicine system to connect to connect youngsters in child care centers, schools, or community centers to a pediatrician or nurse practitioners who is part of the child’s primary care medical home. Special devices for patient examination allow the health care provider to perform remote diagnosis and consultation based on high resolution images, audio recordings (for lung sounds) and video conferencing.

The program currently encompasses 23 community-based sites, four of which are open after hours, as well as mobile units and teledentistry.

Kenneth McConnochie, M.D., M.P.H., director of Health-e-Access and professor of Pediatrics, said. “Our goal in starting Health-e-Access was to increase access to quality health care, especially for the community’s medically underserved children. We hoped to decrease middle-of-the night emergency department visits for non-emergency problems and to reduce urgent care center visits where children would be seen by unfamiliar doctors. And finally, we wanted to reduce time parents lose from work when their child is sick. 

“Has the program been successful?” he asked. “The answer is a resounding yes. Over the past nine years, we have handled more than 8,000 telemedicine visits. We’ve been able to diagnose common ailments in thousands of children through Health-e-Access, making it possible to begin treatment immediately so that these children miss less school time and their parents miss less time from work.”

Rodric Cox-Cooper, CEO of Wilson Commencement Park, one of the Health-e-Access community-based sites, said, “This award is really good news. The population we serve comprises primarily working families and single parents. Many are new or just returning to the workforce and so are typically not well-positioned to take time off to care for their child without risking the loss of their job. Many also depend on public transportation, which can significantly lengthen the amount of time from work a parent must take in order to get the child from our center, go to the doctor, and pick up any medication. Health-e-Access provides critical support to these parents and multi-tiered solutions to the burden that caring for a sick child can present to this group.”

What do parents think about this new technology? In fact, the June 2010 issue of Telemedicine and E-Health presents the results of a new study led by McConnochie which involved a survey of 800 parents with a child who had experienced a Health-e-Access visit.

 “We already had published research data that confirms large reductions in illness-related absence and emergency department use by Health-e-Access participants,” he said. “Given these important effects, we were not surprised to find positive perceptions. But we were very pleased at how highly the parents valued this model of care beyond what they had previously experienced. Clearly it lessened the burden of childhood illness for parents.”

Among the comments parents volunteered about their telemedicine experience, 85 percent were positive and most highlighted convenience in accessing care and the significance of avoiding time lost from work.

Steve Goldstein, URMC vice president and president and CEO of Strong Memorial Hospital and Highland Hospital, said, “It’s gratifying that a program we consider one of our crown jewels in meeting community health needs is being recognized as one of the best such programs in the country. I am proud that Health-e-Access is being recognized by our peers as a successful approach to helping such a vulnerable population.”  

Also receiving NOVA awards will be: a community-based alternative to emergency room program in Fort Myers, Fla.; a program providing care to uninsured expectant mothers and children under age two in Traverse City, Mich.; a comprehensive health care program for uninsured adults in San Francisco, Calif.; and a program to reduce episodes of pediatric asthma in Chicago, Ill.

Disclosure: McConnochie was a founder of TeleAtrics, Inc., which supplies telemedicine systems and support services for Health-e-Access, and may receive future compensation from the company.