Study Shows Advantages to Pediatric Telemedicine

A new study by researchers from Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo. found that rapid electronic review of children’s heart images by specialists nearly 200 miles away allowed for earlier diagnosis and treatment of potentially serious pediatric heart problems. The study was recently presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in San Francisco.

Researchers looked at 11 years of data on first-time pediatric echocardiograms performed at St. John’s Medical Center in Joplin, Mo. that were transmitted to pediatric heart specialists at Children’s Mercy 160 miles away, between April 1998 and October 2009. More than 70 percent of the echocardiograms were ordered due to the local physician hearing a heart murmur. Nearly 75 percent of the echocardiograms were determined by Children’s Mercy specialists to be normal.

“Satellite heart imaging labs like the one evaluated in this study can give parents fast access to pediatric expertise they might not otherwise have, and that can often be reassuring,” said Seiji Ito, MD, resident at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, and co-author of the study. “This study helps illustrate how telemedicine can save families significant worry, time, and expense. It alleviates the need to make appointments with an unfamiliar doctor in a city far away, and endure a lengthy road trip that ultimately could prove to be unnecessary.”

Of the 905 echocardiograms evaluated, only 15 (less than 2 percent) resulted in a transfer to Children’s Mercy for treatment.

Telemedicine involves the use of communication technology to share health information among physicians or between physicians and patients. Over the 11 years looked at in this study, the method of transmission evolved from video tape over integrated services digital network (ISDN), to digital studies transmitted over the Internet.

Source: Children’s Mercy Hospital & Clinics, Oct. 4, press release

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