Telemedicine is the use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to provide health care services at a distance. Telemedicine can provide a wide array of health services to individuals without requiring the individual to interact face-to-face with the health care provider delivering the care. Some common applications of telemedicine include videoconferencing between a patient and a health care provider for a consultation, remote monitoring of vital signs and other health indicators, and Internet applications to assist patients with managing chronic health conditions.
"Telemedicine is a powerful tool that helps overcome major obstacles low-income and underserved children and families face in obtaining the health care they need", stated Wendy Lazarus, Founder and Co-President of The Children's Partnership. "For children living in medically undeserved areas - both rural and parts of urban areas - telemedicine can address health care provider shortages, transportation costs, and lost time from work and school, by using technology to bring the care to where the children are."
"California has long been a leader in telemedicine, enacting one of the first state telemedicine laws in 1996. This technology is reshaping the health care system in California and the nation at an astonishing pace. Yet, as this electronic revolution gathers momentum, there has been little discussion of how it can and should be used to improve the health care of California's 10 million children", stated Wendy Lazarus.
The Children's Partnership Issue Brief, the first of its kind, provides a comprehensive overview of the benefits of telemedicine for children and families, health systems, and communities, and provides recommendations for ensuring that telemedicine reaches its full potential in meeting the health care needs of California's most vulnerable children.
"As California strives to provide insurance for all children and reform its health care system, telemedicine provides an extremely effective tool in overcoming health access issues in rural and other underserved areas", Wendy Lazarus noted. "Telemedicine can also facilitate health system efficiencies and local economic gains as residents remain in the community for care."
Michelle James of Redding, California stated that telemedicine has been a lifesaver. Her son, Kyle, is a 16-year-old who was born with a disorder of the central nervous system and cerebral palsy. For years, they have traveled as far as 320 miles a day several times a month to see various paediatric subspecialists. Through telemedicine, Kyle now travels 10 minutes to a local clinic to see a neurologist 600 miles away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. "Kyle is getting the health care he needs without us having to travel two to three hours one-way, sometimes, to be told that nothing has changed", Michelle James stated.
The Children's Partnership is committed to informing the public and decision-makers about how e-health - the application of ICT to improve health care - can benefit the health of the nation's 73 million children. This Issue Brief is part of the E-Health Agenda for Children, an initiative of The Children's Partnership to foster policies and practices to improve children's health in the information age.
The Issue Brief is being unveiled during the second annual University of California at Davis Health System Paediatric Telehealth Colloquium in San Francisco on September 6-8, 2007. The Colloquium is focused on assisting audience members design, implement, and sustain telemedicine programmes for children. The work on this Issue Brief was supported through a grant from the Blue Cross of California Foundation.
The Children's Partnership is a national, non-profit organisation working to ensure that all children - especially those at risk of being left behind - have the resources and the opportunities they need to grow up healthy and lead productive lives. The Children's Partnership focuses particular attention on the goals of securing health coverage for uninsured children and ensuring that the opportunities and benefits of digital technology reach all children and families.
The Children's Partnership's newest programme, "Defining and Promoting an E-Health Agenda for Children", aims to harness information and communications technology to improve the health of America's children. For more than a decade, The Children's Partnership has advanced its goals by combining national research with state-based activities that translate analysis into local action. The full telemedicine report is available for download at The Children's Partnership website.