After studying more than 1,000 pediatric telemedicine consultations offered in Latin America, researchers at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh--a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospital--found physicians in those countries were highly satisfied with the services and believed they had improved patient outcomes.

The study, published in Telemedicine and e-Health, showcased Children’s multi-center experience in telemedicine at three hospitals in Colombia and one in Mexico from July 2011 to June 2013. Children’s physicians provided 1,040 consultations for 476 patients, with a real-time intervention taking place in 23 percent of those encounters, including echocardiography, adjustment of pacemaker settings and pharmacologic therapy. In 6 percent of the tele-consultations, a different diagnosis was suggested based on the interpretation of cardiac or imaging studies.

The number and type of patients seen by Children’s e-CICU were selected by local physicians at each hospital. Although Children’s physicians in Pittsburgh did not have remote access to the children’s electronic health records, relevant patient data was provided in a secure database and telemedicine hardware was used for real-time consultations. A CICU physician from Children’s participated in all the encounters, with some being joined by other specialists, including cardiac surgeons and neonatal intensivists.

Based on anonymous surveys of physicians participating at the international centers, 96 percent of respondents reported being satisfied or highly satisfied with the telemedicine service, while 58 percent rated the promptness and time dedicated by the tele-intensivists as very high. Physicians reported that they changed their clinical practice sometimes in relation to the telemedicine encounters, with changes in surgical management noted most frequently.

“We know that telemedicine-assisted pediatric cardiac critical care is technologically and logistically feasible in the international arena,” said lead investigator Ricardo A. Muñoz, M.D. “And now we know that the physicians we assist internationally consider this technology to be useful for patient outcomes and education. With continuing improvements in telemedicine technology and our own practices, we will continue to expand access to the world’s best healthcare for children around the world.”

The study is available here.

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