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Pediatric Critical Care Medicine:
doi: 10.1097/PCC.0b013e3181a63eac
Clinical Investigation

Pediatric critical care telemedicine in rural underserved emergency departments*

Heath, Barry MD, FCCM; Salerno, Richard MD, MS; Hopkins, Amelia MD; Hertzig, Jeremy MD; Caputo, Michael MS

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Abstract

Objective: A disparity in access to health care exists between rural and urban areas. Although 21% of children in the United States live in rural areas, only 3% of pediatric intensivists practice in rural areas. In an attempt to address this issue, we implemented a program of pediatric critical care telemedicine consultations in rural emergency departments (EDs) and report our results.

Patients and Methods: A prospective evaluation of pediatric critical care consultations in rural EDs was undertaken March 2006 through March 2008. A referral area with a population of 1,000,000 in 19 rural counties in Vermont and upstate New York comprised the study area.

Measurements and Main Results: Sixty-three telemedicine consultations were performed in 10 rural EDs. The average number of consultations was 6.3 per site (range 2–17). Minor technical issues were identified in 18 consultations (29%). There were 12 primary diagnoses. Telemedicine was used to supervise the critical care transport team on 25 occasions (40%). Consulting intensivists made 236 specific recommendations. Consulting intensivists thought that telemedicine consultations improved patient care 89% of the time, were superior to telephone consultations 91% of the time, and provided good to very good provider-to-provider communications 98% of the time. Referring providers reported that telemedicine consultations improved patient care 88% of the time, were superior to telephone consultations 55% of the time, and provided good to very good communications 94% of the time.

Conclusions: With telemedicine, it is feasible to provide urgent subspecialty critical care for children in underserved rural EDs, improve patient care, and provide a high degree of provider satisfaction. Pediatric critical care telemedicine may help to address the disparities in the access to and the outcome of medical care between rural and urban areas.

©2009The Society of Critical Care Medicine and the World Federation of Pediatric Intensive and Critical Care Societies

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