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Telehealth Technology Use Trending in Alternate Settings

By Vera Gruessner

- Telehealth technology adoption is experiencing a surge across the healthcare industry as more states continue to develop regulations that would provide coverage for doctors participating in telemedicine. In fact, telehealth technology can be utilized in a variety of fields from psychiatric care and cardiology to pediatrics or primary care.

Telehealth Technology Adoption

As previously reported by mHealthIntelligence.com, children with special needs could greatly benefit from the increased use of telehealth technology. With access to certain specialists lacking in rural areas and some parents unable to provide sufficient transportation for their children, it proves more necessary to incorporate telehealth technology in efforts to improve pediatric care.

James Marcin, MD, MPH, Medical Director of Pediatric Telemedicine at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, spoke with mHealthIntelligence.com to offer his perspective on telemedicine in the pediatric field.

mHealthIntelligence.com: “In what ways do you see telehealth technology benefiting the pediatric field in particular?”

James Marcin: “Telehealth is a way to address access barriers currently that are primarily related to patients living in underserved and rural communities. First of all, there’s lots of ways it can be used in pediatric healthcare. The biggest use of it is allowing kids that need to see otherwise regionalized specialists that are typically located in urban hubs gain access to those specialists much more easily in their own communities.”

READ MORE: Blue Cross Blue Shield of GA Offers Maternity Telehealth Program

“It also can be used in acute care settings where a child might be in an emergency department and needs pediatric specialists at her or his bedside. It can be used in hospitals and from a child’s home such as kids with special healthcare needs.”

“Those that are fragile and connected to medical technology such as ventilators, telehealth allows providers to see them while they’re at home, which is a huge advantage to the child and to the family. In a lot of ways, it can help bring providers to the patient as opposed to the other way around, which is often a barrier for kids with special healthcare needs.”

mHealthIntelligence.com: “What are some of the biggest trends you’ve seen in telemedicine and other technologies used for pediatric care?”

James Marcin: “The most common use has been for outpatient specialty access. That’s still the bread-and-butter of pediatric telemedicine. In terms of more recent trends of the past few years, getting access to pediatric specialists, allied health professionals, and therapists in alternate settings – in schools, in day cares, or even when the patient is at home.”

“Those are more recent trends. It’s not only true for kids with special healthcare needs, but other children, adults, and the elderly as well. The idea of being able to provide this service to the patient in a more convenient location is an emerging trend.”

READ MORE: Montana Bill Seeks to Establish Telemedicine Practice Standards

mHealthIntelligence.com: “Have you noticed an increase in family use of mobile apps and smartphones for monitoring their children’s health? What are some of the most popular apps?”

James Marcin: “Patient and family use of mobile applications or video-conferencing like Skype are definitely increasing. Oftentimes they can be disease-specific. Children with diabetes, for example, are networking among each other – even on Facebook. There are disease-specific apps and forums for kids with similar conditions to meet with other kids. Certainly, there is a rise.”

“I won’t comment on the most common apps because I think there are different ones based on age groups. For babies, it’s not the patient participating but their mothers and fathers. They use a variety of technologies to be able to connect such as blogging. I think it’s definitely increasing. The demand for direct-to-patient applications is increasing so that patients and families are able to access their regular healthcare provider on the computer or an iPad.”

mHealthIntelligence.com: “What advice would you offer to a healthcare provider who’s having difficulty adopting and implementing telehealth technology?”

James Marcin: “Telehealth is increasing and a lot of it is being driven by consumer demand or patient demand. For the providers who are skeptics, they need to realize that patients and consumers are more demanding so it’s incumbent on them to listen to their patients’ concerns and desires.”

READ MORE: Nebraska Joins Telehealth Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

“In addition to that advice, these technologies can be implemented or leveraged in good ways that are beneficial for patient care – especially those that pediatricians refer to as the medical home concept. I think that we can use these technologies to maintain and even enhance the medical home if primary care providers are kept in the loop and there is well-coordinated care.”

“But the technologies can also be disruptive to that model of care. If a patient goes into a WalMart kiosk, swipes their credit card, and talks to a provider on MDLive in an emergency. Then these remote technologies are disrupting the medical home.”

“Not only do the providers need to realize that consumers are wanting this type of service and are willing to pay for it, but if it’s not done in a smart way, it can be counterproductive such as when patients are calling on different web-based applications and getting different uncoordinated treatments from different doctors. This is actually harmful for patient care.”

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