Researchers offered kids who lived approximately 70 to 150 miles
away from Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, a
choice between going there for asthma care or getting checked out
with virtual exams at clinics close to home.
After six months, all of the children had a slight improvement in
asthma symptoms, though the improvements weren’t big enough to rule
out the possibility that they were due to chance.
“Our biggest concern was whether care delivered by telemedicine
would somehow be inferior to in-person visits leading to poorer
outcomes,” said lead study author Dr. Jay Portnoy, director of the
division of allergy, asthma and immunology care at the hospital.
“We didn't want to sacrifice quality for convenience,” Portnoy added
by email. “We were able to demonstrate that quality of care and
outcomes were the same when children were seen by either method.”
To assess the effectiveness of remote care known as telemedicine,
Portnoy and colleagues examined outcomes for 100 kids who had
in-person exams and 69 children who had video exams.
After initial exams, families were asked to bring children back for
follow-up visits after one month and again at six months. A total of
34 children completed all three in-person exams, as did 40 kids in
the telemedicine group.
For the telemedicine sessions, a registered nurse or respiratory
therapist saw children in a clinic. In addition to operating video
cameras, these assistants also used digital stethoscopes and
otoscopes to help doctors miles away at the hospital listen to kids’
hearts and lungs and see their ears and noses.
In surveys, families that participated in the study said it was
easier for them to see a doctor at the local clinic, avoiding a
drive of around four or five hours to reach the hospital. Patients
were generally satisfied with the care in video exams, too.
In addition to its small size, other limitations of the study
include the high dropout rate and the fact that participants were
not randomly assigned to the different treatment groups, the authors
note in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
[to top of second column]
Even so, the findings suggest that telemedicine could offer
supplemental care for children who live far from specialists, said
Dr. David Stukus, a pediatric asthma researcher at Nationwide
Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, who wasn’t involved in the
“It is important to establish care through an in person office visit
initially, especially when making a new diagnosis,” Stukus said by
email. “However, telemedicine will have an important role for
ongoing management of chronic conditions, particularly when patients
have limited access to care.”
Even though the technology exists for families to talk with doctors
over Skype from the comfort of home, specialized equipment is still
needed to do a complete exam, noted Dr. Todd Mahr, a pediatric
allergist at Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
“The mistake most people make is assuming this is just a ‘telephone’
or voice visit,” Mahr, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by
email. “That is not the case.”
Telemedicine checkups can, however, eliminate the stress of a long
drive to an unfamiliar place and allow children to get care from a
familiar doctor at a local clinic, Mahr added.
“This study shows us that parents are pleased with the results from
their visit using telemedicine,” Mahr said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/2ctexii Annals of Allergy, Asthma and
Immunology, September 2016.
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.