Pediatricians and staff at the University of Rochester Medical Center expanded a pilot project in Rochester called Health-E-Access, which they had created in 2001 to study the use of telemedicine to treat inner-city preschool and elementary school-aged students. Telemedicine uses remote diagnostic tools and Web-based interactions, rather than costly and time-consuming visits to a doctor's office.
The project was part of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) national program Local Funding Partnerships.
From 2003 through 2006, Health-E-Access expanded from three to 10 child-care centers, and began serving 11 elementary schools, covering more than 2,000 children. From its inception through 2006, the project logged 4,555 telemedicine visits. Over 40 Rochester clinicians used telemedicine to treat child patients in child-care centers and schools.
The project researchers reported in the May 2005 issue of Pediatrics that telemedicine, as applied to children in five Rochester child-care centers, reduced the number of child-care days these children missed due to illness by 63 percent when compared to a control group without telemedicine and adjusting for other variables.
In the article, researchers cited survey results showing that at those child-care centers 91.2 percent of the telemedicine visits allowed parents to stay at work, and that 93.8 of the child illnesses handled by telemedicine would have otherwise resulted in a visit to a doctor's office or emergency room.
In an unpublished research paper researchers concluded that telemedicine visits appear to be replacing about half of the participating children's expected visits to doctors' offices, including expensive visits to hospital emergency departments.