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Pittsburgh - Program to Encourage Telemedicine in Pediatric Emergencies

A team from the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences recently launched a project that will expand the use of telemedicine between emergency physicians in rural areas seeking input from pediatric specialists at UPMC. The project, Optimizing Utilization and Rural Emergency Access for Children (OUTREACH), aims to make telemedicine more effective in pediatric emergencies.

Funded by a nearly $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, OUTREACH is designed to address critical deficiencies in pediatric emergency care reported in the Institute of Medicine's Emergency Care for Children: Growing Pains. The Pitt-UPMC team will interview hospital administrators, physicians, nurses, emergency transport personnel, patients and families to identify issues surrounding pediatric emergency care and potential obstacles to using telemedicine in rural hospitals.

That information will then be used to craft a standardized educational program to help these hospitals best use telemedicine to improve pediatric emergency care through consultations with Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh specialists. The team will then partner with the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, which oversees the state's Medicaid program, to evaluate the effects of the program. If successful, the program could be used as a model for pediatric emergency care nationwide.

In the last year, more than 400 children were transferred from a rural emergency department to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh only to be immediately discharged back to their communities. If these children were triaged via telemedicine, $800,000 could have been saved, according to data collected from the children's hospital emergency department.

Initially, the OUTREACH program will run in five rural hospitals: UPMC Northwest Hospital, Seneca, PA; UPMC Horizon Hospital, Farrell, PA; Washington Hospital, Washington, PA; Armstrong County Memorial Hospital, Kittanning, PA; and DuBois Regional Medical Center, DuBois, PA.

More hospitals will be recruited as the project progresses.

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