Boston Children's Hospital testing three telemedicine programs

Three pilot projects at Boston Children's Hospital are exploring innovative ways to treat patients over distance, according to MedCity News.

The hospital's Chief Innovation Officer, Naomi Fried, discussed the  telemedicine projects at the recent MedCity CONVERGE Conference.

In one program, the hospital sends telecommunications robots home for two weeks with children who have undergone urological surgery. The Vgo robots come with audio sensors, articulating cameras, speakers and a video screen for a "face." Physicians interact with patients and their parents using videoconferencing.

At the end of two weeks, patients have a hard time sending the robots back, Fried said.

"What's exciting about the pediatric patient population is that they are so open to technology. They are digital natives and they are not intimidated by it," Fried said.

The second pilot allows pediatricians to send a photo of a questionable mole or rash to a pediatric dermatologist at Children's for consultation. 

Similarly, researchers at the University of Michigan developed an app that helps users monitor suspicious moles or skin lesions over time. And iPhone's display acuity holds promise for consultation requiring higher-resolution photos. In a recent study using photos taken with an ocular camera in a hospital emergency department, two ophthalmologists rated iPhone photo quality similar to that of desktop computers.

In Boston's third pilot, community hospital doctors in the emergency room can use a video link to ICU physicians at Children's. So far the TeleConnect program links doctors at one hospital, South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, to the pediatric specialists.

Telemedicine has been hailed as a practical way to provide care over distance, especially in rural areas and in locations with few specialists. The American Telemedicine Association lauded the Supreme Court's decision upholding Affordable Care Act as providing a boost to remote care.

The VA has been major experimenter with remote care, using it for specialists to train rural primary care docs and is expanding its mental health services delivered that way.

Last month the U.S Department of Agriculture awarded $8.3 million to fund 33 telehealth programs in 29 states.

To learn more:
- read the MedCity News article

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