Parents find telemedicine care of children in school and childcare to be helpful and convenient
Research Activities, April 2011, No. 368
The city of Rochester, New York, through its Health-e-Access program, is using telemedicine to promote the health of inner city and suburban children in childcare and elementary schools. During telemedicine "visits," a telehealth assistant at the school or childcare center uses computer-linked instruments to capture a child's heart and lung sounds, and camera to visualize their eyes, ears, etc. These sounds and images are stored in a central server and then uploaded to the offsite primary care doctor to review. The doctor can also talk with and assess the child via videoconference to complete diagnosis and treatment decisionmaking. In a recent study of the city's Health-e-Access program, parents found the telemedicine experience of care to be a great way to ease family burdens associated with a sick child. In addition to the welcomed convenience, parents liked not having to miss work and the ability to have medications delivered directly to the childcare or school site.
For this study, Kenneth M. McConnochie, M.D., M.P.H., and University of Rochester colleagues surveyed a diverse group of 578 parents before their child experienced at least one telemedicine visit. After the child's visit, 318 parents were surveyed about the encounter. Parents were asked questions about their work responsibilities, any conflicts they had when the child was sick, and their perceptions about telemedicine.
Nearly 35 percent of parents admitted to losing pay if they took a day off to care for a sick child. When a child was sick, more than half of the parents (58 percent) said they would give fever-reducing medications and send the child to school if possible. There were little worries among the parents about the ability of clinicians using telemedicine to adequately examine and treat their children. Positive comments about the experience far surpassed any negative ones. Most of the positive comments cited convenience and time saved as advantages to telemedicine, including being able to stay working on the job and medication drop-off at school. The few negative comments included a preference for in-person care, concern over technical problems, and worry over a reliable diagnosis. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS15165).
See "Telemedicine in urban and suburban childcare and elementary schools lightens family burdens," by Dr. McConnochie, Nancy E. Wood, M.S., Neil E. Herrendeen, M.D., and others in Telemedicine and e-Health 16(5), pp. 533-542, 2010.