Pediatricians support telemedicine use in PCMH

Telemedicine use is OK if integrated into the patient-centered medical home model, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The group, however, warns against "fragmented care" in a policy statement published in Pediatrics.

In its first statement on telehealth, AAP's Committee on Pediatric Workforce said telemedicine services, linked with the PCMH, could improve the reach of quality of care and streamline costs. The group writes that its chapters should advocate for the elimination of barriers to the technology "to extend the reach of and the access to pediatric physicians as they strive to offer care for all children."

The global market for telemedicine is booming, with the technology expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 18.4 percent from the $17.8 billion spent on hardware, software and services through 2020, according to a report from RNCOS.

However, AAP says third-party providers like health clinics could create "fragmented care" by disrupting the PCMH model, which they say must be "avoided."

"Use of telemedicine care by virtual healthcare providers ... whose business model is to provide healthcare services to patients via smartphone, laptop, or video-consult kiosk without a previous physician-patient relationship, previous medical history, or hands-on physical examination can undermine the basic principles of the PCMH model," the statement says.

Because of that, the committee members say there is greater need for regulatory action on telemedicine from states and local governments. In addition, there should be financial incentives and grants provided to physicians who use telemedicine to lower costs and improve care.

A pediatric telemedicine program can improve quality, safety and patient satisfaction while also saving money, according to research from the University of California Davis Children's Hospital.

The research looked at costs of a telemedicine program weighed against records at eight rural emergency departments between 2003 and 2009. Telemedicine consultations resulted in 31 percent fewer patient transfers compared with telephone consultations and a cost reduction of $4,662 per child/per year.

To learn more:
- read the policy statement (.pdf)