Amy Albin - December 11, 2013
For youth dealing with obesity who need extra help losing weight, experts suggest a multidisciplinary approach in which care is provided by several health specialists. However, the logistics of traveling to multiple appointments, even if just across town, can be a barrier to receiving care, especially for low-income families.
UCLA researchers at the UCLA Children's Discovery and Innovation Institute who work with this patient population set up a pilot program using telehealth technology - a secure system that allowed patients to see and speak with their health care providers at UCLA over a computer from their local health clinic - to evaluate if such a system could be an effective strategy to help overcome these issues. Their study of the program found that the great majority of pediatric patients - approximately 80 percent - were satisfied with their telehealth appointment, saying it was just as good as talking to the doctor in person, that it was easier to go to the local clinic than to the UCLA campus in Westwood, that they felt comfortable and that their privacy was protected.
In addition, 80 percent said they would participate in a telehealth appointment again. Responses from the health care providers were similarly positive. The results of the project were presented at the Southern California Public Health Association Conference on Dec. 9.
"One surprise was how natural it was to talk with each other through the telehealth system, even though we never met the patients in person," said lead author Dr. Wendy Slusser, medical director of the Fit for Healthy Weight program at UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital and director of pediatric wellness programs at the Venice Family Clinic. "The interaction was very much like being in the same room together. Some kids even thought it was fun to see themselves on the screen." [read full story]