Telehealth could help low-income familiesNews added by Benefits Pro on January 5, 2016

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By Jack Craver

Researchers are touting a recent study as evidence of the benefits of telehealth.

Telehealth or telemedicine, which seeks to substitute in-person trips to the doctor’s office or hospital with online consultations, has long been viewed as a promising way to reduce burgeoning health costs.

But this study, led by Professor Kenneth M. McConnochie, M.D. of the University of Rochester, suggests that telehealth can be a great way to deliver medical attention to low-income families who otherwise wouldn’t be getting care at all.

The study focused on a network, Health-E-Access, set up by the University of Rochester that coordinates care between child daycare centers and a local hospital.

A physician or nurse practitioner at the hospital video conferences with a telehealth assistant at a childcare center, such as a school, an after-school program, or a daycare center. During that conference the physician may conduct a variety of basic medical examinations of the child.

The network was developed to focus on children suffering from acute illness.

Over a period of 12 years, between 2001 and 2013, there were 13,812 Health-E-Access consultations. In over 95 percent of cases, the telehealth conference led to primary diagnoses that were later supported.

Similarly, in 95 percent of cases, the consultation was able to rule out more serious diagnoses.

For low-income parents, the benefits of such a system are as much about scheduling flexibility and time commitment as money.

Barriers to transportation and work hours make it difficult for working parents to get their kids to the doctor.

The Health-E-Access website explains:

“Because of these many obstacles to care, a child may wait for hours or even a day or longer before receiving adequate care. In the meantime, the child often suffers unnecessary pain, risks a worsened condition, and is more likely to experience chronic illness.”

The website claims that parents who have relied on the network say that each consultation allowed them to save nearly five hours of work-time.

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