Mobile children's clinics to offer telemedicine links to specialists

South Florida mobile medical clinics operated by Children's Health Fund will be able to link to pediatric specialists from the University of Miami Health System thanks to a recent telemedicine upgrade.

Children's Health Fund operates the mobile clinics for children in homeless or low-income families. Many of these children's only healthcare comes from emergency rooms because their parents can't afford to miss work for a doctor's appointment or they lack transportation, according to an announcement.

"As a result, medical conditions that could be prevented or cured are left untreated," said Dr. Lisa Gwynn, medical director of the pediatric mobile clinic and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Children's Health Fund has been operating mobile clinics for 26 years, but this will be its first foray into telemedicine.

The Verizon Foundation is providing the mobile clinic with a high-speed 4G LTE wireless broadband connection and upgraded telecommunications equipment to link to the University of Miami's advanced telehealth program. Verizon has pledged to equip 15 of the Children's Health Fund's mobile medical clinics in sites including Dallas, Detroit, New York City and San Francisco.

That equipment includes enterprise-grade routers and small antennas in the mobile clinic to improve connectivity. Previously, staff members in the mobile clinic could not easily connect to patients' electronic records and telemedicine wasn't possible.

The mobile clinic schedules telemedicine visits with specialists on specific days--such as dermatology on Tuesdays--so care is coordinated. It plans to add services in cardiology, endocrinology and nutrition among the available specialties.

Though technology is often considered in order to serve patients in remote areas, a recent study found that patients using telemedicine were more likely to live in urban areas, be wealthier and better educated. Technology, however, offers multiple, new ways to connect with caregivers in underserved populations, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center reported.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' proposed a policy change to the 2014 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule would expand payment for telehealth services, which will likely make them more widely available.

To learn more:
- read the announcement