By Scott Mace
Researchers are encouraged by early efforts to read pediatric epilepsy patients via telemedicine, but say more work is necessary to reach wider populations.
The Epilepsy Neurogenetics Initiative (ENGIN) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) reported that across nearly 50,000 visits, patients continued to use telemedicine effectively, even when outpatient clinics reopened a year after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still underrepresented, though are socially vulnerable families and racial and ethnic minorities, the hospital reported.
These findings represent the largest study of telemedicine in child neurology to date, and were recently published in the journal Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology.
Telemedicine as a novel method of care in child neurology has not been systematically explored until now, CHOP officials said. A prior study in Neurology in 2020 reported that patients and clinicians were highly satisfied with telemedicine, and were looking forward to utilizing telemedicine for future visits.
The latest observational study was based on a cohort of 34,837 in-person visits and 14,820 telemedicine outpatient visits between October 2019 and April 2021, spanning a total of 26,399 child neurology patients.
“In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated the use of telemedicine visits, but now that telemedicine visits have been established as part of the care we are able to deliver, we had the opportunity to compare them more thoroughly to in-person visits,” the study’s primary author, Michael Kaufman, MS, a data scientist with ENGIN at CHOP, said in a press release. “With data on nearly 15,000 telemedicine visits, we were able to identify trends in how telemedicine was being used by individuals of different demographic backgrounds, neurological conditions and other variables.”
Certain patients used telemedicine more often than in-person visits–in particular, patients with epilepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Other patients, including those with certain neuromuscular and movement disorders, younger patients, and those needing specific procedures, were less likely to receive telemedicine care.
Self-reported racial and ethnic minority populations in the study as well as those with the highest social vulnerability–a measure of community resilience to stressors on human health–participated at lower rates in these telemedicine visits.
Compared to less vulnerable individuals, some the most vulnerable individuals studied were less likely to utilize online patient portals, and were at greater risk to receive delays in care, the study found.
Scott Mace is a contributing writer for HealthLeaders.