Pediatric patients living in rural, underserved areas have reduced access to medical care. There is a lack of research describing the use of telemedicine (TM) for general pediatric emergency medicine (PEM). In 2013, we established the Child Ready Virtual Pediatric Emergency Department Telehealth Network (CR-VPED), a PEM TM consultation service serving rural hospitals across the state of New Mexico. The aim of this article is to describe our experience for 6 years (2013–2018).
We describe the process of establishing the CR-VPED Telehealth Network. We reviewed all the TM consultations completed from June 22, 2013, to September 6, 2018. In our review, we focus on patient demographics, medical complaint, transfer status, type of referring provider, and problems encountered with each TM consultation.
We had a total of 58 PEM TM consultations between June 22, 2013, and September 6, 2018. All consultations occurred at 6 of the 12 established sites. Most TM consultations (71%; 41/58) were with Indian Health Service sites. Among all TM consultations, patients ranged in age from 30 days to 17 years (mean, 54 months; median, 32 months). Only 26% (15/58) of the patients with TM consultations were transferred to the tertiary care hospital. There was a heterogeneous mix of chief complaints and diagnoses. Rash was the most common chief complaint (24%; 14/58). There was a mix of referring providers, with family medicine physicians being most common (31%; 18/58). Common technical issues were not properly recording the encounter into the electronic medical record (12%; 7/58) and difficulty logging into the CR-VPED Telehealth Network (9%; 5/58).
Previous studies have investigated the use of TM in pediatric acute care, but most studies have focused on critical care or subspecialty care in the office setting. Our experience with CR-VPED has shown that it has been feasible to provide general pediatric emergency care to patients in underserved, rural emergency departments across New Mexico. Patients requiring TM consultation were heterogeneous in age and presentation.