Improving Access to Quality and Critical Care through Telemedicine
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Improving Access to Quality and Critical Care through Telemedicine

Dr. Shireen Atabaki, M.D., MPH, Medical Director of Telehealth, Children’s National Health System

When a child is sick, the time, transportation, and financing mechanism to access care are the lowest priority next to getting healthy but often are the biggest barriers to receiving quality care. Telemedicine helps us reach families where they are. The need for telemedicine is on the rise, it has not always been thought of as a “comprehensive tool” to care for patients. Originally, the perception of telemedicine was that it was only useful for patients that required care for complex medical conditions or families who lived in areas with healthcare shortages. In a world of technology and innovation, researchers are finding ways to create the most impact from telemedicine for patients and families. Telemedicine has been used to provide patients who live in rural areas access to quality care without having to drive long distances. Additionally, it gives patients the option to access their physician or medical specialist from home.

At Children’s National Health System, we have established a robust telemedicine program providing the best specialty and primary care to children in the Washington D.C. area, throughout the region, and globally. Children’s National is able to deliver high quality, cost-effective care by actively using innovative digital technologies in the practice of medicine that is patient-centered, population-based, and timely. Overall, we aim to improve access, the continuity of care to patients and overall pediatric health for all families including the neediest children in our community. Our program has invested in a telehealth infrastructure and collaborates with private and public partners to provide access to specialized care for all children and families in the comfort of their homes and on the devices they regularly utilize for school work, play, and to connect with friends.

"Telemedicine has been used to provide patients who live in rural areas access to quality care without having to drive long distances"

The telemedicine program is utilized across various service lines including cardiology, critical care, neuropsychology, neurology, endocrinology, dermatology, and primary care. In the last year, 412 driving hours and over 11,000 driving miles were saved as a result of effective care through our direct to consumer telemedicine program, locally. In addition to our main campus, Children’s National serves community hospitals, suburban health centers, inner-city health clinics, national hospitals, and international partners across a wide range of pediatric subspecialties, including cardiology, neonatology, neurology, genetics, radiology, and general surgery. We have distance learning initiatives such as patient care conferences, lectures, and hospital support programs which occur in many countries throughout the world, including Germany, Morocco, Uganda, Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Iraq. Since the launch of telemedicine services at Children’s National, we have provided more than 1,000 consultations per year, encompassing 21 states and 19 countries on five continents.

Children’s National has been serving the nation’s capital since 1870 and is proud to be named among the Top 10 children’s hospitals overall by U.S. News & World Report Best Children’s Hospitals survey, including being ranked #1 for newborn intensive care in the country. Children’s National is also ranked in every specialty evaluated by U.S. News & World Report and has been designated two times as a Magnet® hospital, a designation given to hospitals that demonstrate the highest standards of nursing and patient care delivery.

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