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Telemedicine a Cost-Effective Alternative to ER Visits
Date:5/9/2008

Study finds more than 25% of pediatric 'emergencies' could have been handled online

FRIDAY, May 9 (HealthDay News) -- Telemedicine is a cost-effective way to replace more than a quarter of all visits to the pediatric emergency department, according to a community-wide study conducted in New York.

Ailments, such as ear infections or sore throats, that virtually always prove manageable by telemedicine made up almost 28 percent of all pediatric ER visits in Rochester, N.Y., during one year, according to investigators from the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Their findings were presented recently at the 2008 Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, in Honolulu.

"We learned that more than one in four local patients are using the pediatric emergency department for non-emergencies," lead investigator Dr. Kenneth McConnochie, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester's Golisano Children's Hospital at Strong, said in a prepared statement. "This mismatch of needs and resources is inefficient, costly and impersonal for everyone involved."

McConnochie and his colleagues, who direct a Rochester-based telemedicine program that provides interactive, Internet-based pediatric health-care service to the area, analyzed data for all pediatric visits to the largest emergency department in the city. Based on their experience, they determined at least 12,000 visits were ones they routinely treat with success via telemedicine.

The other visits were either problems that sometimes are treatable through telemedicine, such as asthma attacks; or ones beyond the scope of the technology, such as a serious wound or injury.

"This would've not only freed up emergency resources to people who needed them more, it would have afforded smaller co-pays for parents and more timely, personalized care," McConnochie said.

In related research presented at the meeting, McConnochie suggested t
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