Telemedicine can improve patients’ access to care, help fill shortages of physicians and increase communication among clinicians. But it can also lead to fragmented health care.
In a new policy statement, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) makes recommendations on the use of telemedicine in children’s health care and how it will impact the pediatric workforce. The policy statement, “The Use of Telemedicine to Address Access and Physician Workforce Shortages,” was published in the July 2015 Pediatrics. James Marcin, division chief of pediatric critical care medicine and head of the UC Davis pediatric telemedicine program, was lead author of the AAP report.
In the statement, the AAP recommends reducing barriers to telemedicine to improve patients’ access to pediatricians and pediatric specialists. Physicians who deliver health care via telemedicine should receive equitable payment, according to the AAP.
Regulatory authorities should also examine ways to overcome administrative, financial and legislative barriers to implement telemedicine, including efforts to facilitate interstate licensure so that care can be delivered across state lines to children living in underserved communities.
The AAP recommends that telemedicine services should be delivered in the context of a medical home, because this model of health care provides continuity and efficiency. Virtual health care services that are provided outside of the medical home lead to a loss of continuity in care, quality of care and patient safety, according to the AAP. Read the full policy statement.
"The use of these technologies is increasing and it's incumbent upon the pediatric providers to make sure that it is used in the best way for child health," Marcin said. "There are lots of opportunities to use these technologies to do the right thing, so we want to make sure pediatricians are aware of what's going on, on board with it and get involved to ensure its appropriate application."